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Duop in South Sudan (photo specifically chosen to protect identity)NP in South Sudan is deeply worried about the safety and security of 4 of our colleagues who have been unaccounted for a number of days. Mary, Rebecca, Michael and Duop are national protection officers serving in the Koch team in southern Unity. All 4 are from that area, living with their families when they were hired by NP last December, to join the team. Since that time, they have worked alongside their international counterparts to serve the people of Koch County. When the fighting returned to southern Unity, by complete coincidence all of the international colleagues were away. Mary, Rebecca, Michael and Duop, in regular contact with the Juba office, informed us that they had decided to join the rest of their community and families, to move out into the bush and away from the impending fighting. They were able to keep in phone contact with us for a number of days, updating us on their wellbeing and the unfolding situation. Unfortunately, the battery on the phone they were using was running down and, as they had retreated into the swamp, there was no way to charge it. We are all very concerned for them and are working to find out where they are.

We know that when you read the news about war and disaster, it can be hard to relate to the people behind the statistics. With this in mind, we want to introduce you to our friends and colleagues who are among these "statistics". Mary, Rebecca, Michael and Duop are part of our NP family and we want you to know them as the people they are. The following was written by International Protection Officer, and member of the Koch team, Jonathan Moore about his good friend and colleague Duop.

South Sudan Country Director Tiffany Easthom

Since December 2014 Duop has been a part of our team in Unity State, South Sudan. He was hired along with three other members of our national staff to act as a National Protection Officer. Over the past six months, Duop and I have become good friends. We have walked hundreds of kilometers together and grown closer with every step. His passion for his work and his community has been an inspiration and has taught me more than I can explain in a few short words. The people in his community call me 'brother of Duop'. I am proud to be called the brother of this man, who has lived a life that few can imagine.

Duop was forcefully recruited into the military at the age of 10. He spent his youth without a family, footing his way across East Africa, with a military force whose language he didn't speak, taking orders and being bullied because he was small.

Read more: Unfolding Events in South Sudan: NP National Protection Officers forced to flee

Women have always played a definitive role in times of war and peace.

caca 0171In 2000, the United Nations Department of Public Information assembled a fact sheet based on the "Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action: Report of the Secretary-General". On the one hand, it revealed that "more than 75 per cent of displaced people are women and children, and in some refugee populations they constitute 90 per cent." On the other hand, it also put forth an observation that "a growing understanding of the role of women in conflict resolution and the specific skills and abilities they bring to the decision-making process."

This U.N. observation which was made more than a decade ago resonates in Southern Philippines.On the one hand, indigenous peoples of Mindanao, collectively known locals as the lumad, have been historically marginalized, lacking equal participation in matters of governance, and suffering high rates of violent conflict and human rights abuses. On the other hand, the region is in a time of transition. The transition offers an opportunity to support thelumadcommunities through implementing mechanisms which aim to improve their safety and security as well as their participation and ability to positively engage with existing and emerging government units and security actors.

Read more: Nonviolent Peaceforce empowers women IPs to resolve conflict among tri-peoples of Mindanao,...

NCFT DR 150127 Dagadas Minanimbong covenantVengeance runs deep. This is an established fact especially in remote areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security.

For years – sometimes generations – a mother would live in constant fear not knowing when the foe will choose to strike, or who among her sons will be killed next. For years, a family member will participate in a deadly game of hide and seek. The game ends when the family line is exterminated. If this is a movie, “The War of Clans” might be a fitting title. But in many remote areas of the Southern Philippines in Mindanao, they call it “rido.”

Rido is a term, derived from the Maranao tribe, which is commonly used to refer to clan feuds. When members are engaged in acts of retaliation, the cycle of violence is almost impossible to stop.

Rido has brought bitter strife to the lives of feuding families and kinship groups, as well as to communities where bloody hostilities have taken place. The phenomenon has not only caused the destruction of property, but more importantly, it has derailed the normalcy of life of the people who were displaced by war.

Read more: Rido and Reconciliation: a Case from North Cotabato Province

NPPBanner1One can say that peace is only ten percent agreement, but ninety percent implementation. Paramount challenges face societies, countries and regions in post-conflict environments where conflict is still fresh and recovery has not yet been fully attained. Furthermore, new security challenges create obstacles to genuine peace-building and sustainable results. Indeed, even after a political settlement has been reached, uncertainties continue to loom over a fragile peace process as peoples and communities begin the journey from conflict to normalcy.

The situation is no different in the island of Mindanao in Southern Philippines. A generally stable ceasefire (though not without its challenges) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that has steadily held over the past several years is one of the key strengths of the peace process. Add-in the recently concluded Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamorothat paves the way forward for genuine efforts from both sides to achieve a sustainable negotiated peace.

The big story nowadays at the national level is the a draft legislation in Congress entitled the “Bangsamoro Basic Law,” which endeavors to put in place an enhanced autonomous governance structure in predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao. “Bangsamoro” pertains to the political entity contemplated under the comprehensive agreement. It also refers to the native inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands in Southern Philippines who identify themselves as such. The passage and ratification of the law is expected sometime in the middle or latter part of this year.

On the ground, expectations run high on the promise that the legislation intends to deliver. The beginnings of a transition are also perceptible. The MILF has launched its own political party. A schedule for the decommissioning of MILF weapons and normalization of communities has been adopted. A post-conflict development plan for the Bangsamoro is currently awaiting approval of the President.

Read more: Nonviolent Peaceforce in Mindanao: Supporting the transition process from bottom-up

By Derek Oakley, International Protection Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

OakleyOn April 17, 2014, my colleague Andres and I were in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians (POC) compound in Bor, South Sudan. Gunmen invaded the compound and fired upon unarmed men, women and children, killing at least 58 people. These people were largely internally displaced people (IDPs) of the Nuer ethnic group. They had been staying in the POC since the civil war in South Sudan erupted in December 2013. Alongside five women and nine children (whom we had sheltered with for the duration of the assault), Andres and I survived unharmed through a combination of nonviolent training focused on strategy in dealing with violent conflict and ethnic tensions. We were threatened on multiple occasions with guns, axes and sticks. We were even ordered by gunmen to leave the women and children behind. We refused to do so, calmly insisting that we were humanitarian workers and that these were innocent women and children who had nothing to do with the war; we would not leave without them.

Read more: Diary from the Field by Derek Oakley

WP 20150323 17 31 27 ProThroughout the month of February, the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) Bor Team began engaging with a group of girls and young women in Leudier. This is one the most populated areas of Bor Town and close to the Nile; this allows easy access for people returning from Mingkaman and those wary to move deeper into town in the event of further instability. Many of these people are originally from other counties (Twic East and Duk) and do not have established relationships with the other residents of Leudier. Moreover, as a result of the mass displacement from Bor Town, including Leudier, many chiefs were also displaced during the crisis. With the rapid influx of internally displaced persons returning and the new composition of the residents there, Leudier quarter has been left without any formal or functioning leadership structure. This leaves a major gap in traditional systems of dispute resolution and a vacuum in coordination between the Leudier community and humanitarian agencies. These features have left Leudier plagued with protection problems, fighting due to overburdened infrastructure and limited resources, most notably boreholes (a hole made in the ground to retrieve water); social conflicts, including competition by young women for the same man's affections; and widespread gender-based violence, including domestic violence, harassment, and rape.

Read more: Girls Youth Group in Bor Town

WPT2For International Women's Day on March 9th, the Rumbek Team convened women from the Rumbek Town Women Peacekeeping Team (WPT), Cueicok WPT, and Malengagok WPT. The Rumbek Town WPT was established in June 2013, has considerable experience, and includes Rup and Kuei women working on issues of both conflict mitigation across their clans, and women's participation and protection. The Rumbek Town WPT members showed up to the event confident, together, and visible in their WPT t-shirts. This demonstration of unity evidently inspired the Thuyic women from Malengagok to think about ways they could also come together with the Gony women from Cueicok for peace.

Subsequently, the Rumbek Team trained the Malengagok WPT on Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP). During the training, they presented a picture of small buffalo surrounded by big buffaloes, protecting the small ones from attack, and moving forward in the same way. The women responded that they wanted to create such a safe space for their children in coordination with the Cueicok WPT so that they could promote peace between Gony and Thuyic. This desire represents an exciting potential opportunity to convene Gony and Thuyic women for future peacebuilding efforts.

WPT

Programming Highlight:  Bringing Together Gony and Thuyic Women in Lakes

For International Women’s Day on March 9th, the Rumbek Team convened women from the Rumbek Town WPT, Cueicok WPT, and Malengagok WPT.  The Rumbek Town WPT was established in June 2013, has considerable experience, and includes Rup and Kuei women working on issues of both conflict mitigation across their clans, and women’s participation and protection.  The Rumbek Town WPT members showed up to the event confident, together, and visible in their WPT t-shirts.  This demonstration of unity evidently inspired the Thuyic women from Malengagok to think about ways they could also come together with the Gony women from Cueicok for peace. 

Subsequently, the Rumbek Team trained the Malengagok WPT on UCP.  During the training, they presented a picture of small buffalo surrounded by big buffaloes, protecting the small ones from attack, and moving forward in the same way. The women responded that they wanted to create such a safe space for their children in coordination with the Cueicok WPT so that they could promote peace between Gony and Thuyic.  This desire represents an exciting potential opportunity to convene Gony and Thuyic women for future peacebuilding efforts.

By Kristine (Tin) Valerio, Team Leader in Northern Bahar El Ghazal for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

kav southsudan2As we enter this year’s Women’s Month, the heat of South Sudan envelops my body. After meeting the transnational feminists in Asia, together with my fellow Filipinas, I came back to South Sudan welcomed by its hottest season. The leaves are falling down and the grass is brown. The river, just months ago populated with fishermen, is becoming part of the vast dry soil. The cows and goats are thinner and weaker. Hunger, which is a part of everyday life for most South Sudanese, will definitely be exacerbated. With South Sudan’s dry season the migration of the pastoralists along the borders of Sudan is on its way. This may bring conflicts, killings, revenge, and echoes of cries among the communities of Riziegat, Misseryia and Dinka Malual.

Read more: In the World’s Youngest Nation, Women are Building Their Lives

By David Browning, Nonviolent Peaceforce Team Leader – Minkaman in South Sudan

Dave DeploymentOver the last couple of months I have been privileged to support the leadership of Awerial County. These leaders are desperately trying to contain a conflict between clans that has repeatedly threatened to spiral out of control. I have long been fascinated by the demands and responsibilities of leadership; what I have witnessed has imbued a belief in me that there is hope for this deeply troubled country.

The conflict began in late October when a cattle camp infected with the tick borne disease East Coast Fever moved from Minkaman, where the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) team is based, to Dor Payam, 30 km north. The cattle camp had been repeatedly asked by the local government to remain in Mingkaman so their cattle could receive treatment. However, not understanding how the disease is spread, they decided to leave their camp in an attempt to escape the disease.

We were rightly concerned that the arrival of infected cattle in Dor would cause conflict; as several other camps of cattle were there at the time. Our team was in Dor discussing the issue with the respective camps and the local government when the fighting started. We had received assurances from the infected camp that they would not venture from the outskirts of Dor. These were assurances that they had also given to the Payam Administrator. (Payam is an administrative division).

However, for reasons that remain unclear and mere hours after we had spoken with the camp, they began to move some of their cattle towards the center of Dor. This sparked a violent confrontation with cattle keepers from another camp. When the initial fighting eased the local government requested we transport two wounded teenagers to Mingkaman for medical attention. Word quickly spread that these teenagers had been shot and as the team drove back to Mingkaman we witnessed hundreds of armed youths headed towards Dor seeking revenge.

Read more: Diary of a Field Staff – David Browning