Juba’s Konyo-konyo turns into one-day market-place of ideas about peace

Juba’s Konyo-konyo market was abuzz over the weekend, yet the bustle had little to do with the selling and buying of commodities for which South Sudan’s most famous market is known.

Instead, suppliers and residents came together to participate in an event that has the potential to improve their prospects, through better understanding of what is contained in the revitalized peace agreement, signed in September 2018, and supporting it.

In the past, when there was real peace, from 2011 to 2013, I was supplying fresh farm products like cassava, maize and vegetables that I purchased from Loka (an area around 70kms South of Juba). But now it is difficult to access the farm area and even nowadays one can’t find agricultural produce there, said Suzan Benjamin, a charcoal vendor who had been drawn to the Neighbourhood Advocacy for Peace event. We need peace so people can cultivate and have freedom of movement, Suzan concluded.

For us as traders, it’s very important to have Peace because the number of the customers will be more and with that, we can gain a lot, said Mark Tombe, a wholesaler dealing in construction merchandise. Most of [our customers] are now refugees in the neighbouring countries, while some still live in internally displaced people’s camps, lamented Mr. Tombe.

Open to the public, the event at Juba City Council’s Medan Zahara grounds attracted around 1000 participants, comprising the business community and area residents from different walks of life.

The Zande, Bari and Balanda communities graced the event with their cultural performances, providing a symbol of the coexistence of different ethnic groups in an area that is a microcosm of all communities in South Sudan.

The UN peacekeeping mission’s Nepalese contingent shared a bit of their own culture with the locals, too, as the peacekeepers demonstrated their solidarity with the people of South Sudan in pursuit of durable peace.

The event was one in a series of many, organised by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in partnership with the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), and the National Pre-Transitional Committee (NPTC) team, which has been explaining the provisions of the revitalised peace agreement to participants chapter by chapter, and answering questions.

In any exam, when the given time elapses, the teacher has the responsibility to collect all the papers for marking and evaluating the students, whether they have finished or not � time can’t be for ever, remarked Peter Mayen, a member of the pre-transitional committee, referencing the urgent need for the formation of a transitional unity government by the November 12 deadline.

Responding to questions about the peace process, Angelina Teny, the co-chair of the Strategic Defence and Security Review Board, said the most important thing needed to turn the agreement into reality, is to implement all the articles in it.

Bypassing any, or ignoring any, or thinking that we can take some to another stage, will undermine the agreement, she said, before alluding to Peter Mayen’s school exam analogy. Just like a student who did not finish his/her exams ends up with a fail or low grading, we don’t want low-grade or failed peace, Ms. Teny said, referring to the partial registration of 68,600 instead of 83,000 unified forces in the cantonment sites.

For us to have free and fair elections, we need a free political and civic space for a democratic process to take place, she added.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Moustapha Soumare, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNMISS’ deputy head in charge of political affairs, urged the parties to the agreement to overcome outstanding challenges facing the formation of a unity government, as he reiterated the Mission’s support to ensure that the people of South Sudan enjoy durable peace.

“The Peacekeeping mission will use its good offices to provide expert advisors to work with various peace agreement mechanisms at the national level and at the grassroots level. We are working with the traditional, religious leaders, and civil societies, including communities like this one here, for peacebuilding activities, he said, adding that UNMISS had so far facilitated 130 rapprochements across South Sudan.

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan