Jolien Veldwijk – Peacebuilding Initiatives Rotating Header Image

Cross-Border Relations Project

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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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!