Jolien Veldwijk – Peacebuilding Initiatives Rotating Header Image

North South Sudan

With Pain, Hope and Patience

After my last post ages ago I wanted to write an entry called ‘The Horrors of Juba’. At the end of my last trip I tried to track down 11-year old girls who have become sex workers. And I was successful. I found a few of them in a massive compound with iron sheet barracks where women prostitute themselves in rooms not bigger than 3 m2. There are rooms where pornographic movies are being filmed. Sex films with children in the leading roles.

But I couldn’t write about it. I couldn’t find words to describe the living circumstances of the hundreds of women and girls who sell their bodies to men in this awful place. Men of all kinds. There were so many different kinds of women. From Uganda, from Kenya, women who were child soldiers during the war, women who’ve lost everyone and everything, and of course the young girls who try to flee from their lives on the street.

But you will soon be able to read about these women and young girls as I am currently working as a consultant on a new project focused on Southern Sudanese women. The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation has commissioned an exciting new book aimed at documenting the lives of different groups of women in South Sudan. It is hoped that this book, under the draft title ‘With Pain, Hope and Patience: The lives of women in South Sudan’, will contribute to a documentation of South Sudan’s past while at the same time voicing women’s hopes for the future. The need for this book is propelled by the recognition that the truth of Sudan’s past must be preserved, documented and made accessible in order to pave the way for its future.

Nine broad categories of women have been identified for this book, each of which will be explored in one detailed chapter. By integrating new data from in-depth interviews with local women, authors are tasked to tell the stories of these categories of South Sudanese women within the current socio-economic and political context of South Sudan.

I am one of these authors. I will be writing two chapters for this book: one on Mothers and one on Sex Workers. I am currently conducting research in Rumbek, Juba and hopefully amongst the Internally Displaced (Southerners who live in the North) in Khartoum early September.

With Pain, Hope and Patience will most likely be published at the end of the year. Until then, I will keep you updated as well, but it looks like it is going to be an amazing book to read, as my co-authors are impressive women!

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