The first comprehensive national reconciliation conference ‘to try and heal the mental wounds’ in the world’s newest nation after 40 years of war has been officially announced by South Sudan’s Vice-President, Dr Riek Machar Teny.
The conference, set for 18-21 April, 2013, will launch a national campaign for reconciliation coordinated over the next 4-5 years by the Office of President and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The Sudan Tribune (an online newspaper covering the region) www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article44688 reported that President Salva Kiir Mayardit will address the conference on the ‘daunting task… still facing the underdeveloped country 15 months after independence’.
Participants will draw together both the top leadership of various government institutions, including delegations from the nation’s ten states, and grassroots community organizations, the churches, NGOs and traditional leaders. IofC International been asked to partner with the government in the first phase of this campaign, providing international speakers and facilitators with evidence of reconciliation and healing during the conference, and on-the-ground support in the lead-up to it. ‘South Sudan has gone through a violent past which has caused mental barriers with some still fighting wars in their minds,’ Dr Machar told a preparatory meeting at the Council of Ministers hall in late November. ‘The country should reconcile with its own past.’
Accountability, transparency and good governance will also be part of the reconciliation campaign, Dr Machar explained, because of the sense of injustice and discontent generated by corruption and bad governance.
The Sudan Tribune noted that, one month after Independence last year, Dr Machar became ‘the first senior political leader to initiate the post-independence reconciliation process by voluntarily apologizing to the Dinka Bor community for his past political differences’ which split the SPLM/A liberation movement in 1991, leading to a massacre in neighbouring in Jonglei State, an area still plagued by violence.
In January 2012, Dr Machar referred to the events leading to that apology at a conference on Making Democracy Real, at the Initiatives of Change centre, Asia Plateau, in India. It was then that Dr Machar made a plea for ‘bold steps’ by the international community to help the new nation in a process of reconciliation, in order to address the ‘simmering violence’ which have caused over 3000 deaths in the past year.
The request for IofC to partner in this process, floated at that conference in India, became formalised in August 2012, when the General Assembly of IofC International in Switzerland adopted ‘A journey of healing for national reconciliation in South Sudan’ as one of IofC’s ‘Common Action Projects’ for 2013 (See further story by Alex Martins).
On 29 November, the Executive Vice-President of IofC International, Edward Peters, and IofC’s liaison for the project, Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye, were invited to speak to State governors and speakers of the State Assemblies at the Governors’ Forum, which was meeting in Freedom Hall in Juba – the same venue as for April’s national reconciliation conference. The Vice-President urged the state government leaders to prepare the ground for the upcoming conference, saying that ‘bitterness should not be allowed to carry on to the next generation’. See http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article44627
Do you want to support IofC's role in this important effort? While a range of international funding agencies are being approached, and the government of the Republic of South Sudan are underwriting the project, funds are urgently needed to bring the speakers and team of facilitators to South Sudan. Donations for the South Sudan Initiative can be received via: http://www.iofc.org/ssi-contributions