“I WILL NOT BE SILENT.”—An Urgent Appeal from South Sudan
Posted on January 27, 2017
“I will not be silent.”
These are the words Dr. Celestin Musekura stated after returning from his most recent trip to South Sudan. He went on to explain, “I can never forget how Rwanda was abandoned by the world at its most desperate moment. The world has learned many hard lessons from the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Yet in the new year, we are faced with a shockingly similar set of circumstances in South Sudan—and the Church has the opportunity to get it right this time.”
In November 2016, ALARM held a trauma healing, reconciliation, and peacebuilding seminar in Juba for the 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) who make up South Sudan’s Peace and Reconciliation Committee. At their request, Dr. Musekura gave a presentation on the eight stages of genocide. After hearing him outline the stages, many informed him that South Sudan stood on the brink of the climactic 7th stage: extermination. Dr. Musekura had heard the same from pastors just days before.
The MPs attending the seminar had been charged with bringing the message of peace to their nation. Yet most were so traumatized by what they had seen and experienced that they could not deliver hope to their people. The seminar allowed them to begin the healing process and gave them the tools they needed to form a peace and reconciliation plan for their nation.
At the end of the seminar, the MPs composed seven recommendations for how to prevent genocide in their country and urgently asked for ALARM’s help.
In January, 2017, ALARM implemented the most urgent recommendation: hosting intensive training for MPs from regions where ethnic tensions are at an extremely dangerous level. During the intensive training, the MPs received teaching on trauma healing, peacebuilding, and genocide prevention. Below is a brief update from Dr. Musedura about the training:
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Background on South Sudan
South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, celebrating Independence from Sudan in 2011.
Prior to gaining its independence, South Sudan was a part of Sudan, a country known for its human rights violations and decades of civil war. The fighting was between the largely Arab Muslim people in the north and the black Christian people in the south. The Arab Muslim government in the north used violent force—including slavery, ethnic cleansing, and Islamic subjugation—to control the primarily black Christian people in southern Sudan. During this time, more than 2 million people died and 4 million were displaced.
In 2005, the fighting ceased, and a peace agreement was signed. Within the peace agreement was a referendum to consider southern Sudan to become its own nation within the following 5 years.
In January 2011, 98% of southern Sudanese people voted to create their own nation. On July 9, 2011, two decades of civil war between northern and southern Sudan and years of tribal conflict culminated in the creation of a new country—the Republic of South Sudan.
Despite the glow of independence, many problems exist for the young nation—including lack of economic development, ethnic tensions, and political instability.
On December 15, 2013, South Sudan experienced heavy fighting between South Sudan’s army and the rebel soldiers who opposed the government. The fighting that errupted on this day—and that has continued to escalate into 2017—is rooted in the tribal and political dispute between South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and the now former Vice President, Riek Machar, that had the country on the brink of civil war for months.
As stated in a recent New York Times article,“Starting in December 2013, after a breakdown between [South Sudan's] political leaders, who not so long ago had been hailed as heroes, Nuer and Dinka militias began killling each other and civilians across the country, especially in ethnically mixed areas. Women were raped. Children were burned to death...The horror has been meticulously documented. Still, it goes on."
When war broke out in Juba on December 15, 2013, many South Sudanese fled to Uganda and other countries bordering South Sudan. It's been reported that "over the past three years, more than three million South Sudanese civilians have been displaced inside the country or have fled abroad because of fighting and atrocities — including more than 340,000 just to Uganda over the past six months."
For the South Sudanese who remain in their country, violence has become the norm. The conflict between the Dinka and Nuer has spilled over into the Equatorial tribes who have been accused by the government of harboring Nuer rebels—resulting in mass astrocities and the imminence of genocide.
As mentioned above, members of South Sudan's parliament attended a trauma healing, reconciliation, and peacebuilding training led by ALARM in November 2016. At the conclusion of the training, the MPs composed seven recommendations of how to prevent genocide.
Earlier this month, ALARM was able to raise funds and implement the most critical recommendation—#6 Organize a retreat for Members of Parliament from the three regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Upper Nile. ALARM hopes to help the MPs implement the remaining six recommendations, preventing genocide in South Sudan.
Below is a picture of Dr. Celestin Musekura speaking to MPs on January 24. 2017:
The following recommendations were made the participating lawmakers and members of the Parliamentary Peace and National Reconciliation Committee:
1. Organize another Trauma Healing, Peacebuilding, and Reconciliation Seminar to bring all of the 400 legislators together for at least four days.
This will help them heal from trauma and acquire skills in peacebuilding and reconciliation, which they can use to convince their constituencies to embrace peace and discourage hateful and violent attitudes toward their fellow citizens.
2. Organize similar seminars with other organs of government (Executive and Judiciary).
The parliamentarians suggested that, since the three organs work together, it would be important to involve the Executive arm of the government, especially the president, his two deputies, and his ministers in the peacebuilding, trauma healing, and reconciliation training, as this will help address the stress and trauma that have overwhelmed and sometimes clouded their minds from thinking straight as the top leadership of the country. The seminars will also help the two other organs to gain skills in peacebuilding and equip them with the knowledge to reconcile the highly fragmented societies of their country. The training will also help the Judiciary to understand its role in enhancing the protection of and respect for the rule of law in South Sudan.
3. Organize similar seminars with organized forces.
Since the deteriorating security situation is largely blamed on the organized forces, the Members of Parliament believed that the training they received could be very useful for the organized forces. One of the reasons why some security organs act the way they do is because most of them are traumatized and therefore need trauma counseling themselves. It was suggested that ALARM should carry out these trauma healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation seminars among the organized forces, including the Army (SPLA), police force, National Security Service, military intelligence, Criminal Investigation Department, prison service, wildlife service, etc.
4. Collaborate with the Parliamentary Peace and Reconciliation Committee and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission.
This would be done to integrate trauma healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation materials into their programming and enable them to reach the grassroots level and help many people who are suffering as a result of conflict in South Sudan.
5. Facilitate workshops and rallies where Members of Parliament who’ve received training will visit their constituencies and share the skills they’ve gained with their citizens.
In order to take the message of trauma healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation to the grassroots and avoid further deterioration of the situation, it was suggested that ALARM and its partners organize workshops and rallies in different parts of the country and take the Members of Parliament from different regions that have been trained in trauma healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation to talk to their constituencies on the importance of peaceful co-existence and building trauma-free societies.
6. Organize a retreat for Members of Parliament from the three regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Upper Nile.
The retreat will encourage the leaders to understand the importance of their positions and discourage them from employing hate speech and siding with their tribes in escalating the violence in South Sudan. This retreat will help them heal from the stress and trauma that they’ve been exposed to throughout the crises in South Sudan and give them new hope in restoring peace and reconciliation in their constituencies.-Completed the week of January 23, 2017.
7. Continue capacity-building training for selected MPs.
Take some Members of Parliament from different regions and give them continued training on trauma healing and peacebuilding and use them as peacemakers and ambassadors for ALARM programs throughout the country.