New Field Site Open in South Sudan
On March 21st, a Nonviolent Peaceforce team arrived in the town of Yirol, Lakes State to launch a new field site. Self-named the “A” team, Asha, Ajanth, Ashlyn, Abuna Rocky and their driver Alex loaded their Land Cruiser with supplies and drove the 350kms of dirt road from South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, to what is now their new home. Arriving in Yirol Town, the “A” team were greeted by their national colleagues whom they had met during the 10-day Mission Preparedness Training held a few weeks prior. These four bright young people—Susan, Kon, Abraham, and Abolich—were hired directly from the Yirol community.
Six weeks later, I came from Juba HQ with NP’s Deputy Executive Director, Kim Vetting, who is paying his first visit to South Sudan, to see how the new team is doing. Team Leader Ajanth Fernando, a Sri Lankan who formerly served as a Team Leader in NP Sri Lanka told me, “We became immediately busy when we arrived. NP was known in this community because of the work that we did last year on the conflict at the border of Western Equatoria and Lakes State. On the first day our office was operational we were called to respond to inter-communal violence and we have been running ever since.”
As I spent a few days with this new team, I had the opportunity to get to know our new national staff colleagues. There is Susan, the proactive engager who is constantly gathering information and analyzing the conflict situation. There is Abraham, a remarkably composed and thoughtful young man who is the former office manager for the state Security Advisor. There is Abolich, a serious and imposing presence keen to take on leadership roles. And there is Kon, a young man who himself was a victim of this inter-communal violence just last year when his home was burned down and he was displaced during the WES/Lakes border conflict. “I came to know NP when they came to my village. It was NP that was able to bring peace to my village and now I have the honour of working for NP.” Kon’s personal commitment to learning to be a peaceful protector of civilians in his community is palpable. And like the strong foundation that any home needs, there is Abuna Rocky. Abuna means “father.” Rocky is called this because he served as a pastor before joining NP and because of the fatherly role he plays in the team. A tower of personal strength and grace, Rocky joined NP’s first field team in South Sudan in May 2010. Since that time, Rocky’s courage and commitment to violence reduction and peace has impressed everyone who has met him. Rocky is now serving as the Senior Protection Officer for this new team, supporting his national and international colleagues in implementing this challenging project.
NP South Sudan has grown dramatically in the last year. This time last year we had just opened a new project and were a fledgling presence with three field locations. Now we have eight field teams in five states. Each field location is unique in many ways working on issues that are the most relevant to each particular area - child protection for children affected by violent conflict, working with refugees and internally displaced peoples, working at the dangerous Sudan/South Sudan border, implementing innovative conflict related sexual violence prevention programming, conflict early warning/early response programming and working on the deep, grassroots inter-communal violence issues that plague places like Yirol West.
I look at this newly formed team, loving the enthusiasm and eagerness of the new recruits and feeling comforted by the presence of the experienced peacekeepers. Regardless of how long I have been doing this work, when community members share with me how pleased they are with the work of the NP teams and their genuine belief that NP’s presence will bring peace to their community, I am moved with both hope and commitment.
Country Director, South Sudan
To learn more about NP's training for new peacekeepers, click here.