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Introduction

 

This brief publication provides the basic documents of the Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference held in Wunlit, Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan from 27th February until 8th March 1999. The purpose of this publication is to immediately make the core documents available to:

Background: The Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference is a major step in a much larger process. It is designed to bring reconciliation to many groups and people of south Sudan who are in conflict with one another. As this process grows and expands it carries the potential to transform the dynamics of the macro Sudan conflict.

In June 1998, under the facilitation of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), thirty-five Dinka and Nuer border chiefs and church leaders on both the west and east sides of the Nile River met in Lokichogio (Loki), Kenya. They considered ways to bring peace and reconciliation to their peoples. They met for nine days to share the stories of the pain and suffering they have inflicted on one another for seven years. After coming to a consensus that they must help their people find a way to make peace, the chiefs and church leaders began planning for major Dinka-Nuer peace conferences. It was anticipated that conferences should be held on the west and east banks of the Nile. The Loki conference ended with the signing of the Nuer-Dinka Loki Accord (see Appendix B). The West Bank conference was established as the next major step in the process.

NSCC established an organising team and hired short-term staff to focus exclusively on the Dinka-Nuer peace process. During the following eight months the team included field mobilisers and organisers, women, chiefs, liaisons from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), intellectuals from the Sudanese Diaspora, and a consultant peacemaking facilitator. The SPLM was requested and agreed to release to NSCC the services of Mr. Mario Muor Muor to serve as the conference site organiser at Wunlit, Tonj County. With the organising skills of a local chief nearly three hundred citizens laboured for three months to build an entire village for the peace conference. One hundred fifty tukul (houses) and a large meeting hall were built. Cattle, goats and chicken were pledged and provided for meat. A well was drilled, additional food imported, extensive transportation was planned, and relationships were maintained with all levels of society from local chiefs to the highest levels of the political movements.

Prior to the Conference a high profile chiefs exchange visit took place between the Nuer and Dinka areas. The Nuer chiefs had to be satisfied that there would be adequate security for their leadership to come into Dinkaland to attend the conference. Dinka chiefs had to be satisfied that the Nuer communities were very serious about this peace effort. These exchange visits took place from the 11th to the 16th of February in Thiet and Wunlit, Bahr el Ghazal in Dinkaland and in Leer, Western Upper Nile in Nuerland. The visits ignited the enthusiasm of local populations, demonstrated to all that the peace was underway, and convinced the key leaders that security would be guaranteed. Hundreds of delegates, chosen by counties and provinces from Dinka and Nuer communities, began moving toward the site. An airlift was organised to bring 150 Nuer delegates, arriving on the day before the opening. The Conference site became a living peace village with hundreds of security personnel, teams of women cooking and serving each of five "villages," and youth working through the night to meet the water needs of a total community of 1200 to 1500 people. International observers and journalists were free to observe and report the story of the peace process. At the end of the Conference a total of 318 people signed the Covenant.

The Wunlit Conference opened with the ceremonial sacrifice of a large white bull, provided by the chief of Wunlit, Gum Mading. The opening ceremony also included Christian worship led by Dinka and Nuer church leaders followed by words of blessing from traditional spiritual leaders. Welcoming speeches were made by NSCC Executive Secretary Dr. Haruun Ruun, Deputy Chairman of the SPLM/A Commander Salva Kiir Mayardit, Governor Nhial Deng Nhial of Bahr el Ghazal, Commissioners of Tonj and Leer, and women leaders from Dinka and Nuer. The Conference closed with the signing of the Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant and Resolutions. Each person placed his or her thumb print on the final document and some also chose to sign. The Covenant was sealed with Christian worship, traditional sacrifice of a bull and festivities.

A future publication will include key speeches, selected quotes from the many participants, the minutes developed by the Rapporteurs, and a selection of pictures that tell the story of the Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Conference.

 

This official publication is presented by NSCC and is approved by the following Rapporteur Team:

Mr. Dhol Acuil Aleu

 

 

 Dr. Peter Nyot Kok

 Dr. Wal Duany

 

 

Dr. William O. Lowrey

 Mr. John Luk Jok

 Dr. Marc Nikkel