GIDEON SACKITEY I left Waat five years ago. Today if we are here, I am sure that peace is here. I am happy that today, 20 February 2019, I can return here, without been chased away or be met with fighting.
The words belong to Musa Chot Yak, a paramount chief in the Bieh area of the Greater Jonglei region. His emotional outburst came as he spoke at a consultative meeting on the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in Waat.
He had more to say.
It has been one of the most uniting events I have witnessed, with all our three governors from government and opposition areas attending a joint meeting with their commissioners and chiefs. I pray things stay as they are, and improve so that we can have lasting peace in our communities.
Fighting broke out between government and rebel forces in 2013, when the national conflict erupted, forcing thousands out of the town into neighbouring states and countries. Many have never come back to their town since.
Musa Yak, looking rather old, said he was happy to see his children all sitting down, choosing to talk instead of fighting, to resolve their disagreements.
Key participants at the consultative meeting, a precursor to a peace rally scheduled in Bor, were the governors of Bieh, Lankien and Akobo.
Seated behind a table draped in white to signify the era of peace, the discussions centered on a variety of issues, amongst which were military cooperation during the interim period the observance of free movement for civilians the delivery of humanitarian services. The voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced people to their original areas of residence was also singled out as a priority.
Other issues discussed at the meeting, which was open to the public, were the return of confiscated assets of civilians during the crisis, impediments blocking the progress of the peace implementation in Lou Nuer land and the necessity of true reconciliation and healing.
Later in a post-meeting interview, Lankien governor Simon Hoth had a lot to say.
Having been chased out [of Waat] by these two [pointing at his counterparts from Bieh and Akobo]. But I am excited to be back on a peaceful note and for a real peaceful occasion.
We are the same people. We all belong to the greater Lou Nuer area and it does not matter who becomes the governor here as we will all work towards peace for the benefit of our people who have suffered for too long, he added.
Bieh governor Moses Majok pointed out that the consultative meeting had been long overdue. This should have happened much earlier, after the signing of the peace agreement, but we were busy with other things, he said.
Speaking as the three-and-half-hour meeting concluded, Akobo governor Maok explained that participants had agreed that the peace agreement will be disseminated widely, and that civilians shall be granted freedom of movement. Military personnel, however, will require permits to travel, and assets confiscated during the conflict will be returned to their owners.
We also agreed that communication infrastructure and internet networks should be opened, and the military cooperation issues be left with the military to sort out, Mr. Maok said.
Representatives from church groups, women and youth groups took turns to plead for sustained peace and cessation of hostilities in the entire, previously contended area so that change can be felt by all.
We want peace to prevail, so that we can all live and look [well] like those of you in government, said John Deng a youth leader in Waat.
Deborah Schein, head of the UN peacekeeping mission’s field office in Bor, urged the leaders to uphold the peace.
South Sudan can be a prosperous nation and the current revitalized peace agreement is the best chance for peace towards a better future, she stressed.
After the meeting, the three governors and dignitaries were draped in white Laawa, a traditional fabric wrapped over clothing, to mark them out as peace ambassadors to lead their communities towards peace and tranquility.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan