By Lony Koang Dhuor
Before I joined Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), I had low standards for preventing and reducing violence. I was also not active in preventing violence. At times, I would just let violence escalate because I was afraid or I lacked knowledge and skills to intervene. For instance, I had a verbal fight with another teacher over his poor performance and irresponsibility. I tried nonviolent means of negotiating with him but it came to no avail. He even ended up threatening to shoot me. The issue was only resolved after a third party intervened.
NP’s work is transforming me. It enhances my knowledge and skills of creating strategies towards preventing and reducing violence within my family, clan and community. My attitude towards violence and other people who are different than me has improved. NP empowers me to build trust among conflicting parties through relationship building. Here are two of my success stories.
“Violence is Not the Only Way of Responding to Conflict”
In late 2013, the Waat payam (political subdivision in South Sudan) relief and rehabilitation coordinator (RRC), who is from my clan, was removed from office by the payam administrator (PA). The clan members felt it was because of outright discrimination. This raised tensions between the RRC’s clan and that of the PA’s. People bitterly complained, alleging that the PA had discriminated against them by nominating someone from his clan. To make matters worse, the RRC’s clan mobilized armed youths and strong men ready to fight the other clan. Violence almost broke out because the PA’s clan had also fully prepared themselves for violence.
I rushed to my clan members to quell down tempers. I strongly reasoned, “Violence is not the only way of responding to conflict." Fortunately, members of my clan did not move to approach the other clan. Furthermore, my community selected me to be the association chairperson responsible for identifying a nonviolent solution. Being the chairperson, I sat down with members of my clan to identify a positive clan strategy. It was not easy to convince people to think outside of violence. However, it was in this meeting that we resoundingly resolved to draft an official letter addressed to the Waat payam administrator. We also copied it to the county commissioner, members of parliament at the state level, traditional chiefs, and all government departments within Nyirol County.
Apparently, the commissioner called the PA and dissolved the whole RRC system in Waat. He instituted an inclusive committee responsible for selecting the Waat payam RRC. Surprisingly, I was unanimously selected to be the chairperson for the selection committee. I led the process with both fear and excitement, as we identified an RRC. The community and officials at the payam and county level were happy with the process and my performance.
”Koang” and Violence
In February 2014, an incident happened in my community of Borduot Boma in Waat Payam. Three young men became drunk from locally brewed alcohol called “Koang.” Unfortunately, one of these men had a gun. He shot and killed his two buddies. When he realized what he had done, he ran away from the scene. To make matters worse, family members of the deceased armed themselves, as they prepared to fight the family of the perpetrator. The situation was on the brink of inter-family violence.
Immediately after the incident, a few women were sent to Waat to inform me about the imminent threat of violence brewing between the two families in Borduot. Without delay, I ran straight to my village. I only knew of dialogue as a proper method of engaging the parties. So, I first met with one party to discuss the situation. Meanwhile the other family had already moved away to another location to hide for safety. The next morning I called a meeting between both of the parties. I included two religious leaders, who strongly encouraged the parties to consider reconciliation and forgiveness, as well as considering the consequences of violence.
Using resources from NP on how to facilitate dialogue, I urged both parties to compromise and to find amicable solutions in preventing further violence. After the meeting, the parties agreed to stop any further violence based on revenge. Finally, I told the community to find the person who killed the two men and arrest him. This way he could face the consequences of the crimes he committed. A team from the community later managed to capture the perpetrator. He was arrested and put in the Waat prison.
Fruits from NP
These success stories are the fruits of the presence of NP in Waat. I say this because NP transformed me into a community mediator, which I had struggled to be before joining NP. I earned the trust of people in my community, which is something that is not easy to gain. Based on these experiences and others, I can truly boast of NP’s mission, values, principles and experience in helping to prevent inter-clan violence.