By: Kei Emmanuel Duku Yona
A five day’s peace, truth and reconciliation conference organized by Yei traditional chiefs and church leaders funded by Yei business community came to an end on Saturday at Yei Crop Training Centre (CTC) under the theme “Small London is enough to host 64 tribes of South Sudan”.
The conference attracted more than 200 peace delegates from Mugwo, Otogo, Tore, Yei County and surrounding areas with its main objective to seek solutions to the ongoing crises in Yei and ensure justices for affected victims.
Speaking during the opening day of the conference on Tuesday, Juma David Augustine, former Commissioner for Yei River County and former Minister of Finance who represented the Youth during the conference emphasized on importance of peaceful coexistences, reconciliation and freedom of expression to be granted to the participants if lasting peace is to be achieved in greater Yei.
“I have to be very honesty with this conference because it will mean nothing if we are not given freedom to talk and express our anger. So let me hope those who have been given the free space to speak will later not be intimidated or arrested, just simply because what of he/she has spoken.
It’s unfortunate that some of us are going to speak the bitter truth which is painful to others as you know a lot of the bad practices such as rapes, looting and killing of innocent civilians has been taking place in Yei since the conflict started and as we really know this senseless war was honestly instigated by one individual and today I am happy that we have relished the importance of dialoguing among ourselves” said David.
David further said that “we are here to reconcile and forgive each other. Above all stay peaceful amidst us as South Sudanese but I didn’t know if the victims and perpetrators are here with us so that this reconciliation process is a mean full one”.
For his part, Amule Felix Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) state secretary who represented the governor during the conference urged participants to speak freely as its one of the fundamental rights within the constitution of Republic of South Sudan on freedom of speech and not to fear the presences of the security officers during the conference.
“We are really aware of threats posed to individuals during public discussion like this but this conference is an exceptional, therefore I want all of you to speak without fear. We have also invited the security agencies to attend this conference because some of them are part of the current mess. So say out anything that affects peace and stability of people of Yei and South Sudan at large and for us as government we will implement your resolutions” he said.
But to Viola Tabu, A resident of Yei town Payam and one of the participants said many people have lost lives and property and since the singing the peace agreement in Khartoum and little progress has been made in restoring peace, stability and security in the affected communities within Yei despite the fact some people have started returning back.
“I am very disturbed by what we are going through here in Yei, looting of property, vandalizing and setting of civilian’s houses ablaze, harassment of Civilian, raping of women and girls, murder of women and men in cold blood this the terrible situation we are living in Yei, So if we truly mean peace it has to be from bottom of our hearts not peace from Ethiopia or Sudan since some of our people have started returning home” added Tabu.
Just two years after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan went into senseless war as described by the international Community which to Rev: Evans Sokiri of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) Yei said the current war has affected most children as they are forcefully recruited as soldiers hence losing their lives while others are displaced to the neighboring countries of Congo and Uganda.
“Speak out in order to make your leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and Violation of fundamental human rights, whatever house you set on fire why can’t you enter it and say peace to the house. Please never war, never war!
I think especially about those children who had the hope of a future, dignified life, but had it taken away. Dead Children, mutilated Children, Wounded Children, orphaned Children, and Children who plays with toys made of out of the remains of weapons. Children who cannot smile anymore. Stop. Please. I beg you with all my heart it’s time to stop. Stop please” stressed Sokiri.
At the end of the conference, participants agreed on more than 25 resolutions to govern the four counties of Yei, which included addressing of unrestricted movement of returnee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), brining perpetrators to justice, addressing the issues of internal boundaries, respect to customary laws, putting an end land grabbing among others.
According to figures released by United Nation High Commission for Refugee earl March 2019, it’s estimated that more than 250,000 thousands civilians have been displaced and are in dare need of humanitarian assistance .