Jolien Veldwijk – Peacebuilding Initiatives Rotating Header Image

May, 2010:

Dialoguing with 80 representatives of Upper Nile State

During this past week we hosted a workshop for 80 participants of Renk, Mabaan and Manyio County in Upper Nile State. 80 government officials, paramount chiefs, representatives of civil society such as women groups, youth groups, trade unions, and religious leaders gathered together in Renk to discuss the challenges and opportunities of Cross-Border Relations after the Referendum in 2011.

Here are the summary recommendations as articulated by the participants. I suggest you read them as they give a clear outlook on what the people who actually live on the contested inner border of Sudan go through. It also gives an overview of the current status of development in Northern Upper Nile State: there is lack of clean drinking water, lack of health clinics, schools, police stations, etc. All the things we consider normal to have access to are unavailable to the people of Renk, Manyio and Mabaan County.

On Demarcation:

The populations of northern Upper Nile are dissatisfied with the border demarcation process.

They have lost significant agricultural lands as a consequence of the recent demarcation.

They dispute the demarcation.   They do not believe that it accurately represents the 1/1/1956 border.

They say that Khor Ayuel is the location of the 1956 border.

They say that their traditional authorities should have been involved in the demarcation process, because they have the historical knowledge of the location of the border.  The traditional authorities of the communities from both the north and the south would be able to agree on the accurate location of the 1/1/1956 border if they were involved in the demarcation process.

When community representatives and traditional authorities have attempted to engage with the official demarcation teams, they have been ignored, intimidated or assaulted.

On Cross-Border Relations

Insecurity is the most significant challenge faced by border populations.  The security of their lives and property is their highest priority.  They require that the rule of law is upheld and people’s rights are respected.

Border communities are also in need of basic social service provision.  Police stations, courts, clinics and medical stores, veterinary services, clean water supplies, schools, transport infrastructure and electricity are all required in the populated areas along the border.  The administrators, civil leaders and traditional authorities of these areas can identify the specific locations where such services should be established.

Services in the border areas should be available to local residents and migrating populations from the North.

More police stations and police officers are needed in the populated border areas.  The role of the police should be to work for the local communities, to protect their property and physical safety from violence, and to protect people’s rights and the rule of law.

However, the presence of military forces in the border areas is contributing to increased tension and insecurity.  Therefore, the border areas should be demilitarized. The SAF should move 10 km to the North of the 1/1/1956 border, and the SPLA should move 10 km to the South of the 1/1/1956 border.  No military equipment or military installations should be within 10 kilometres of the 1/1/1956 border.  But the police forces should remain in these areas.

Courts are necessary in the border areas to maintain the rule of law and to protect people’s rights.  Traditional authorities and official state authorities should be involved in courts.

In areas where there are mixed communities and populations from the other side of the border are present, traditional representatives of all groups should be involved in court proceedings.

Roads and bridges should be built to connect populations living along the border and across the border, as should river transport.  This will support connectedness and the commercial and agricultural interests of the border populations.  Having such connections is in the interest of all populations along the border, on both sides of the border.

Free movement of people and goods across the border is in the interest of the border populations.  Freedom of movement should be supported by the security forces.

These recommendations will be of long term benefit to the border populations in the event of either possible outcome of the referendum – Unity or Separation.

Chiefs, government officials, civil society representatives gathered here to discuss their future

Chiefs, government officials, civil society representatives gathered here to discuss their future

The most Northern place in the South

Last Wednesday the team and I arrived in Renk, the most Northern city in Southern Sudan, I can’t get any ‘northerner’!

With an extremely loud voice proclaiming ‘Alleluia’ from a nearby church in the background, I thought I should write a little update about the progress of the work here. The last couple of days we spent mobilising the participants for the workshop on cross-border relations that should start upcoming Thursday. We crossed the Nile (!) to visit the commissioner of Manyio county and he promised to invite the chiefs, representatives of women groups, leaders of youth groups, religious leaders, trade union leaders, etc. The same goes for Maban and Renk County.

This means that next Wednesday 73 participants will arrive from different areas on the North/South Sudan border to talk about their post-referendum future here in the city of Renk!

As you can imagine, a lot of practical things will have to be in place, and we have been working hard to achieve this: meetings with caterers, guesthouses, interpreters, government officials, civil society leaders, commissioners, etc. But how exciting it is! Everyone is extremely supportive and cooperative and wondering why no one came to them to do this a year earlier. Well, the only thing I can say is that we are here now!

My living circumstances are quite luxurious for local standards, but in my weak moments I find them not always easy! We have problems with electricity (which means no fans to cool us off a little!), very primitive and shared (!) latrines and showers, and hardly no internet. But it brings great benefits!! We live in tukuls (huts of clay and straw), we get to sleep outside under the most beautiful starry sky, and the sun is always shining.

Once the workshop is in progress I will write another entry. Until then, I am hoping for rain. Not only does that mean we will cool off but this also means that the roads will be too muddy to drive back, which means we will return to Malakal via the Nile. 8 hours on a boat on the Nile. Fantastic!!

From Juba to Malakal to Renk

Last Saturday I flew from Juba to Malakal where we spent the last couple of days preparing for our journey to and our workshop in Renk. We have been planning peace with the acting Governor (Your Excellency) of Upper Nile State!!!

Tomorrow I will leave by road from Malakal to Renk (see right side of the photo of map) which promises to be an exciting journey as the road may not be very well due to the rain we have had so far, even though it hasn’t rained much at all and it is very hot!

Many of you have asked what it is that I actually will be doing on the inner border of Sudan. Well, here is a short summary:

The Cross-Border Relations Project

Concordis International is working in Sudan in partnership with the Centre for Peace and Development Studies (CPDS) of the University of Juba to facilitate a research-based dialogue project aiming to inform local and national peace and development processes, supporting cooperative, secure and economically viable relations across Sudan’s North-South border beyond 2011.

The project involves engaging border communities and authorities in the states along the North-South border as well as decision makers and opinion leaders in Khartoum and Juba. A round of workshops are being facilitated in the border states, informed by a team comprising Concordis staff, CPDS researchers, and senior African experts. After these statelevel meetings, the project will bring workshop participants and additional policy makers together in a series of regional cross-border workshops, conferences, and briefings.

Rationale:

The borderland between Northern and Southern Sudan is the locus for a number of conflict triggers which could undermine security for border communities, national peace processes, and in turn regional security. Whether the 2011 referendum on Southern Sudanese self-determination delivers unity or secession, there are significant risks of escalating tensions and renewed violence in both scenarios. In either scenario, the way in which social, economic and security relations across the border are managed could determine whether conflicts resume or peace is sustained.

The needs and interests of border communities, as well as those of state elites, should be reflected. If either condition fails, sources of instability may outweigh sources of calm.

2010 will see high level negotiations between the parties to the CPA on post-2011 arrangements. The Cross Border Relations Project is working to support border populations to consider, agree and articulate what kind of arrangements would meet their needs and provide a basis for a viable and peaceful future.

Core Aims and Objectives of the Project:

– Build trust and understanding between border communities within and across border states; – Develop consensus on principles for how the border should be managed peacefully;

– Develop proposals on development initiatives to support peaceful coexistence at the border;

– Introduce principles and proposals to relevant national and local peace processes, such as negotiations on post-2011 arrangements, and to inform donor policy to reflect local needs.

Activity Summary:

December—February 2010 Initial engagements in border states and development of methodology

March-June 2010 State workshops in Unity, Upper Nile, Abyei, South Kordofan, White Nile, and Blue Nile.

June-July 2010 Regional workshops bringing together communities from both sides of the border.

August –October 2010 Policy briefings and national level conferences.

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Back at the Street Children Centre in Juba

Before my departure tomorrow morning for Malakal, I decided to visit Cathy Groenendijk, the lady who runs the only drop-in street children centre for girls, Confident Children out of Conflict. Some of you may remember my entries from a few months ago when I first met some of the girls and heard their horrible life stories of hunger, rape, incest and molestation. One of these girls I will never forget: 7-year old Sabila. However, as I spoke about her earlier, I would now like to bring her sister to your attention. She is the youngest prostitute in Juba: only 9 years old. I have no words for this. My mind went completely blank when Cathy told me. When a street girl decides to become a prostitute it basically means she realises she can also get paid for the abuse she suffered and she may as well try to get some money for it. In a crude and very cynical way it makes even somewhat sense. But according to Cathy, when this happens, it is even harder for the girl to start a ‘normal’ life. To live a life without having sex for money. Or even more ‘normal’: to live a life as a child, safe and protected, well-fed and properly clothed. All of the things we consider to be normal living circumstances for children.

And I’ve seen it in their eyes. the depth of deadness seems to become more intense and stronger, the more they start to understand how their world works.

Isn’t there anything we can do? There must be!!

And there is! Lack of time (seriously, I am leaving in a few hours to go the inner border of Sudan and I haven’t packed yet) stops me from writing a long list of all that you can do. And next to giving loads of money there are tons of things you can do. However, I will tell you about those later. I brought the contents of a collection I did after my lecture at the University of Cambridge to Cathy and she said it will buy school shoes for some of the girls she enrolled for school! How cool is that?!

That brings me to another point: Cathy’s leap of faith. Cathy enrolled all of the street girls into school. All 150 of them!! And she does not even have the money to pay for all of their school fees! Including transportation, food, books and uniforms, it costs $800 per child to go to school. Yes, prepare yourself for a blog about fundraising activities!

I think it is amazing that there is someone out there who makes herself strong for these children, no matter how much she has to give up for them. And she has given up a lot.

I have to go now, but please bear Cathy, Sabila, her sister (the youngest prostitute of Juba) and all the other girls  who live on the streets where they eat of garbage dumps and get abused and defiled daily in mind and in your heart.

On my way back… back to Sudan!

I realise I have not posted anything for a long time. Some of you may think I am still in Southern Sudan! No, I did make it back to England where I started a fulltime position as a Programme Development Researcher with Concordis International.

It is for this job that I am now currently in Kampala meeting old friends (no, unfortunately not Tom) to apply for my travel permit to back to Southern Sudan. I managed to secure one today and will be leaving tomorrow to work with the Cross Border Relations Project.

Concordis is working in partnership with the Juba University Centre for Peace and Development Studies (CPDS) to facilitate a research-based dialogue informing local and national processes aimed at ensuring cooperative, secure and economically viable relations across Sudan’s North-South border: The Cross Border Relations Project (CBRP).

The process involves engaging decision makers and opinion leaders in Khartoum and Juba as well as border communities and authorities in strategic locations along the North- South border.

A round of workshops are being facilitated in all the border states, informed by a research team comprising Concordis staff, CPDS researchers, and senior African experts. The project will then bring participants and policy makers together in a series of regional cross border workshops, conferences, and policy briefings.

As you can imagine, this is an exciting project to work with! I will be travelling to remote areas so may not be in touch much, but please occasionally check my website, Twitter or the website of Concordis to see what I am up to!