The 1999 Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Peace & Reconciliation Conference

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in History
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Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace & Reconciliation Conference

The Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference is a major step in a much larger process. It is designed to bring reconciliation to many groups and people of south Sudan who are in conflict with one another. As this process grows and expands it carries the potential to of transform the dynamics of the macro Sudan conflict.

In June 1998, under the facilitation of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), thirty-five Dinka and Nuer border chiefs and church leaders on both the west and east sides of the Nile River met in Lokichogio (Loki), Kenya. They considered ways to bring peace and reconciliation to their peoples. They met for nine days to share the stories of the pain and suffering they have inflicted on one another for seven years. After coming to a consensus that they must help their people find a way to make peace, the chiefs and church leaders began planning for major Dinka-Nuer peace conferences. It was anticipated that conferences should be held on the west and east banks of the Nile. The Loki conference ended with the signing of the Nuer-Dinka Loki Accord (see Appendix B). The West Bank conference was established as the next major step in the process.

NSCC established an organising team and hired short-term staff to focus exclusively on the Dinka-Nuer peace process. During the following eight months the team included field mobilisers and organisers, women, chiefs, liaisons from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), intellectuals from the Sudanese Diaspora, and a consultant peacemaking facilitator. The SPLM was requested and agreed to release to NSCC the services of Mr. Mario Muor Muor to serve as the conference site organiser at Wunlit, Tonj County. With the organising skills of a local chief nearly three hundred citizens laboured for three months to build an entire village for the peace conference. One hundred fifty tukuls (houses), a large meeting hall were built, cattle, goats and chickens were pledged and provided for meat. A well was drilled, additional food was imported, extensive transportation was planed, and relationships were maintained with all levels of society from local chiefs to the highest levels of the political movements.

Prior to the Conference a high profile chiefs exchange visit took place between the Nuer and Dinka areas. The Nuer chiefs had to be satisfied that there would be adequate security for their leadership to come into Dinkaland to attend the conference. Dinka chiefs had to be satisfied that the Nuer communities were very serious about this peace effort. These exchange visits took place from the 11th to the 16th of February in Thiet and Wunlit in Bahr el Ghazal among the Dinka, and in Leer in Western Upper Nile among the Nuer. The visits ignited the enthusiasm of the local populations, demonstrated to the conference site builders that the peace was underway, and convinced the key leaders that security would be guaranteed. Hundreds of delegates, chosen by counties and provinces from the Dinka and Nuer communities, began moving toward the site. An airlift was organised to bring one hundred fifty Nuer delegates, arriving on the day before the opening. A total of 303 delegates signed the eventual Covenant. The Conference site became a living peace village with hundreds of security personnel, teams of women cooking and serving each of five “villages,” youth working through the night to meet the water needs of a total community of 1200-1500 people, and international observers and journalists living simply and free to observe and later report the story as the peace process unfolded.

The Wunlit Conference opened with the ceremonial sacrifice of a great White Bull, provided as a gift by the local chief. The Ceremonial Opening meeting included Christian worship led by church leaders followed by welcoming addresses. Speeches were made by NSCC Executive Secretary Dr. Haruun Ruun, Governor Nhial Deng Nhial of Bahr el Ghazal, Deputy Chairman of the SPLM/A Cdr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, Commissioners of Tonj and Leer, women leaders from Dinka and Nuer, and traditional spiritual leaders of Dinka and Nuer. The Conference closed with the signing of the Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant with its included resolutions. Each person placed his or her thumb print and some also chose to sign the final document.

Another publication will follow this initial one. That future publication will include key speeches, selected quotes from the many participants, the minutes developed by the Rapporteurs, and a selection of pictures that tell the story of Wunlit.

This official publication is presented by NSCC and is approved by the following Rapporteur Team:

Mr. Dhol Acuil
Dr. Michael Wal Duany
Dr. Peter Nyot Kok
Dr. William O. Lowrey
Mr. John Luk
Dr. Marc Nikkel


Contents

February 27, 1999 Opening prayers and sermon
February 28, 1999 Introduction of dignitaries and guests (continued), beginning of Dinka narratives
March 1, 1999 Dinka narratives (entire day) 
March 2, 1999 Nuer narratives (entire day)
March 3, 1999 Nuer narratives (entire day)
March 4, 1999 Various addresses (Rumbek, Bul, guests)
March 5, 1999 Reports from discussion groups, seeking consensus
March 6, 1999 Complete reports from discussion groups, signing the accord
March 7, 1999 Sunday morning Christian worship service, followed by sacrificial ceremonies to conclude the conference
Appendix Provisional list of villages and settlements abandoned for reconstruction
Issues List of issues and solutions
Khartoum List of Khartoum delegates
Dinka List of Dinka delegates – Gogrial County, Bahr el Ghazal
Nuer List of Nuer delegates – Jagei District (Koch), Western Upper Nile
Resolutions Conference resolutions
Speeches Speeches by several people
Covenant Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant

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