Position Paper of the Gogrial Community Association in Australia

Posted: April 26, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Position paper of Gogrial Community Association in Australia regarding the conflict and reconciliation in Gogrial State.

Sub: Gogrial State Peace and Reconciliation Conference – Ajiep-Kuach (April 2018)

Introduction

1. Opening Statement

Conflict forms part of every livings’ walk of life and existence of conflict within our communities cannot be a surprise, but rather expected events. What would be a surprise is the persistent continuation of the violent conflict among our communities, which claimed many lives. Intellectuals, chiefs, youth leaders, politicians and other prominent members of our community bear the blame and responsibility for the loss of lives throughout this conflict. It must be stated that, if these mention groups did not serve our communities with gross negligence, ignorance and unwanted rivalry, many lives and civilians’ properties could have been saved and social fabric, which is essential for social cohesion among our people might have been maintained.

We the members of Gogrial communities in Australia, categorically condemned the failure of most of our elders, chiefs, youth leaders, intellectuals and politicians to step in and stop, prevent the continuation of the communal violence and put in place a workable mechanism that deters the recurrence of violence.

However, we are all faced with the reality that, the violence took away the lives of over 4,000 people as we heard it, mainly youth, women, children and elderly who have no idea of what they died for. It is important to notice that, conflicts cannot be solved in the face of hot emotions. It needs those involves in the conflict, both the victims and perpetrators to first, take a step back, deep breath, and gain some emotional distance before trying to talk things out. Now that, State government in collaboration with the central government had managed to stop the fighting and carried out almost a complete disarmament of armed civilians in our communities, it is time for all of us to breath, regain our focus and seize the opportunity to choose the means of eradicating the culture of violence. ‘Ajiep Peace and Reconciliation Conference’, is an opportunity that presents a unique phase for the needed transitional justice process. For practical purpose, members of Gogrial communities in Australia acknowledge the need to put the violent conflict, and its consequences aside and call upon all the members of our communities to jump aboard of this ‘Transitional Justice Process’, (Peace, Reconciliation and Accountability).

Gogrial Community Association in Australia, like in the USA and other parts of the world were Gogrial sons/daughters resided, contributed money toward the ‘Peace and Reconciliation Conference in the state as part of our commitment to see peace prevail in our Gogrial State. Members of Gogrial communities in Australia commend and applaud the recent measures adopted by the State government in collaboration with the security forces responsible for forcible disarmament. The use of force against armed civilians who refused to put down their weapons and instead engage or threaten to engage in violent acts against the rest of the communities is commendable, proportionate and lawful use of force in a given circumstance. However, it is essential that the authority does not abuse State of Emergency Powers to arbitrarily execute innocent civilians who may be caught in a circumstantial situation. The leadership and majority members of Gogrial communities in Australia condemn those who engage in commentaries that may constitute incitement of violence. However, we also understand that citizens can always have different views and opinions, and it is the responsibility of the government to encounter them positively and constructively with facts rather than dismissing their grievances or concerns.

2. The Guiding Principles that we urge participants to adopt throughout the conference.

The objective of ‘Ajiep Peace and Reconciliation Conference’ should not be a blame game but rather an opportunity to find amicable and long-lasting solution and peace for our people. It is time for members of Gogrial communities at home and abroad to put aside being differences and opposing views and listen objectively to all sides of views and look for ideas that would help reconstruct the torn social fabric and trust. We urge our people to engage in conversation during this conference, bearing in mind the following principles:

(a) Stay cool (Emotion free)

As stated in our opening Statement, we appeal to all members of our communities to take an active participation in the conference to be calm, think positive and focus on the objective of the conference, the search for permanent peace. This would require all participants to ensure that they choose what they say with peace, love at heart and with honesty. We cannot bring back over 4,000 lives lost during the conflict, but we can reunite and make sure violence conflict never happened again, thus prevent and deter further loss of lives and properties. We expect leaders to emerge and speak the language of peace.

(b) Express your opinions or views without attacking or blaming others

Part of ensuring that a frank and honest discussion on matters pertaining to the conflict resolution is essential, we all must express our willingness to accept our faults and take responsibility on whatever we failed to do and the wrongs, we did to one another before we express our grievances. If participants express what are bothering them in a non-defensive tone, that may help create an environment that foster better understanding and avoid putting others in the defensive and eventually close doors to an open conversation. ‘It is us (the people of Gogrial) against the problem (the violence conflict that took the lives of our people), not us against one another’. Gogrial communities unanimously and kindly request all stakeholders to this Peace Conference and every participant to ensure that, when making statements, it’s important to avoid put-downs, guilt-trips, sarcasm, or negative body language. We need to come from a place inside that’s non-combative and willing to compromise, in order to achieve tangible and sustainable peace.

(c) Adopt reflective Listening.

Dialogue purporting to bring about a peaceful resolution to any conflict requires listening to the other side without perception and prejudice. If all the participants demonstrate a willingness to listen to one another rather than focusing on own point of view, it will undoubtedly foster empathy and encourage a complete reconciliation.

(d) Taking Responsibility.

In most of the conflicts, both parties have some degree of responsibility. However, most of us tend to blame rather than looking at our own roles in the problem. When we take responsibility, we shift the conflict into an entirely different gear, one where resolution is possible.

(e) Accept solutions that favour all people.

Resolving conflicts is a creative act. There are many solutions to a single problem. The key is a willingness to seek compromises.

(f) Affirm, forgive and thank.

A handshake, hug or kind words give closure to the resolution of conflicts. Forgiveness is the highest form of closure because “When you forgive somebody, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride. For victims and those directly or indirectly affected by this conflict, forgiveness would mean the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other’s’ presence.” Just saying thank you at the end of a conflict reconciliation resolution or acknowledging the person for working things out sends a message of reconciliation and gratitude. We urge our people to be open and willing to forgive and reconcile. We preserve our relationships this way, strengthening our connections and working through problems that arise.

3. Our main position

1. The conference should determine and clarify the root causes of the conflict.

2. Establish common goals or objectives that are in the best interest of all our communities.

3. Discuss ways or mean to achieve the agreeable objectives or goals concerning the conflict.

4. Determine the barriers to achieving the agreeable common objectives or goals.

5. Agree the best methods or mechanisms for resolving the conflict once for all through achieving permanent peace.

6. Acknowledge and accept the agreed solutions and determine or work out the responsibilities that all stakeholders have in the resolutions.

7. Choose a follow-up to evaluate the agreed solutions.

8. Revenge killing must be criminalised with a heavy penalty to ensure that, nobody is allowed to take the laws into his/her own hands. We know that most of the killings are perpetuated because of revenge, and part of addressing the root causes is to criminalise it.

9. Celebrate your success (Set a date in December 2019) to celebrate Peace Anniversary. This could recommit and remind of the significance of peace among them.

4. Accountability

a. Those implicated in this conflict must be investigated and held to account for the loss of lives, destruction of civilians’ properties, creating a humanitarian crisis at the time, our people were supposed to enjoy absolute peace and free movement.

b. It must be stated clearly that, if communities adopt resolutions of resolving this conflict, any person/s who breach it, must be held to account with a full force of the laws.

5. Reparation

State government should consider setting up a commission to investigate and assess the impact of this conflict and ensure that, state or central government compensate the victims.

6. The roles of youth leaders and chiefs

a. Youth and chiefs should play significant roles in being ambassadors of peace and cohesion among our people.

b. Ensure that, members of the communities under their control or leadership do not engage in any acts that cause or incite violence.

7. Other specific recommendations

Political or governmental actors

1. Depoliticise the conflict. Since the parties to the conflict, have aligned themselves with some political figures. The people of Gogrial must come together and realise that those politicians, who incite violence, do not deserve political support or any kind of association from the communities. If identified, they should be stripped off their political and electoral support.

2. If members of parliament, both State and National valued their votes and cared about their political ambition, then they must be advised to call for peace, unity openly and mutual dialogue both in speech and action – action speaks louder than words.

3. Both State and central government should encourage investors to develop the state and create employment opportunities for youth and SPLA veterans residing within the State. Setting up agricultural projects where youth can engage in paid activities that could divert troubling youth from engaging in violence-related activities is paramount. Youth idleness can often lead to unnecessary violence and crimes in every part of the society. Therefore, youth need to be engaged or involved in every type of developmental activities to keep them busy and productive.

4. The civil population should leave the punitive element solely to the security agencies, such as the police and the judiciary. Train these agencies to respond promptly to the security challenges, even minor security threats and communicate these threats clearly to the government and the civil population.

5. Refrain from treating Gogrial conflict in isolation from other conflicts and recognise the influence of the instabilities in neighbouring communities/States that may fuel violence in Gogrial, for instance, in terms of arms supply.

6. Set up State Peace Council to oversee communal conflicts. Such Council will need an effective management plan, and more resources and governmental support to become an active actor in conflict mitigation and enable an effective management plan.

7. Mainstream, a more in-depth understanding of “culture” as an all-encompassing, dynamic feature of civilians who the State attempts to govern. In many people’s minds, a chief may be more respected than the Governor of the State even the President of the nation; therefore, the government must be aware of these “non-state” affiliations and their impacts or significance in resolving the grassroots conflicts.

8. Pay close attention to inherent conflicts embedded in chieftaincy, politics of hate, land disputes and other causes of instability in Gogrial State as well. This can be done through identifying the tensions early and call for preventive measures before escalation. To do so, co-operate closely with civil-society organisations in the State, youth, chiefs and educators.

9. Start building national curricula of peace-education in schools and universities within Gogrial state and beyond, which would restructure minds and instil the discourse of peace from the experience of violence.

10. Psycho-education is needed on how to maintain peace, understanding the rule of laws or about what South Sudan laws said about every crime committed by anyone because nobody should be above the laws of the land. Most people in rural areas have no any idea what is in South Sudan constitution. All security agencies and forces also need constant training on how to enforce the rule of laws effective without being punitive as well as on how to work closely and respectfully with civil population – constant refreshment on human rights is also paramount. In other words, respectful relationship between the security forces and civil population can create cooperation, collaboration and compliance.

11. Last, but not least, we would like to encourage the state government to work closely and together with Miith Gogrial at home and in Diaspora as partners of peace and development in Gogrial State.

8. Conclusion.

The leadership of Gogrial Community in Australia wishes all of you a peaceful, constructive, meaningful Peace and Reconciliation Conference, and we hope and pray that it will bring a lasting and sustainable peace in our State.

Your sincerely,

On behalf of Gogrial Community leadership Australia wide:

Dr. Santino Atem Deng Anyuon, Chairperson, Gogrial Community Association in Australia

Nyibol Tong Aleu, Deputy Chairperson

Wol Door Athuai, Secretary

Deng Dhol Yuot, Deputy Secretary

Apet Manyual Lual, Treasurer

Clement Agui Deng Manyang, Deputy Treasurer

Dominic Deng Madut Akech, Public Relation

On behalf of Australian States’ leadership:

Achuil Tong Wol, Chairperson, Gogrial Community in Victoria

Dut Baak Joul, Chairperson, Gogrial Community in South Australia

Mareng Bol, Chairperson, Gogrial Community in New South Wale

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