People-to-People Peace Process Makes Another Breakthrough in Uniting Lou Nuer of Upper Nile
Friday 12 November 1999
New Sudan Council of Churches
NAIROBI: 12 November, 1999. After six months of intensive work facilitated by the New Sudan Council of Churches, the Lou Nuer of Upper Nile have reconciled in a seven day Peace and Governance Conference in Waat, Sudan. The Lou area, including the towns of Waat, Akobo, Yuai, and Langkein, has been wracked by conflict as military forces under three commands have battled each other. Frequently, the White Army youth militia groups, which number in the thousands, joined various groups and entered the conflict. As a result, almost all UN and NGO humanitarian groups had withdrawn from the area and near anarchy had reigned. All forms of civil governance had collapsed.
The Waat Lou Nuer Covenant which is attached to this Press Release establishes peace among the Lou and formed a Peace and Governance Council to rebuild the civil administration, establish a police system, and re-empower the traditional court system of chiefs. Appeals are issued for peace with all sections of Nuer and with all neighboring peoples, declaring unilateral and permanent cease-fires, and urging all southerners to join in the reconciliation process that is uniting the south.
The final section of the Covenant is "A Word of Promise: We will protect this peace against anyone from within our ranks or who would come against us from the outside attempting to destroy our unity and peace. For this peace we are willing to die so that our children may live in peace and enjoy this good land that God has given to us."
The New Sudan Council of Churches through its peace teams has orchestrated an intense process to bring the conflicted sides together. In June and July teams flew into the midst of conflict to convince antagonists to cease their fighting. In August a total of sixteen shuttle flights in three days brought all the key military and political leaders together in discussions that resulted in a commitment to reconcile and integrate their forces. September saw the emergence of a joint military coordinating council, the integration of military forces, reestablishment of security across the Lou Nuer area, and a major public rally for peace in Waat. Finally, in late October delegates from every section of Lou Nuer gathered in Waat bringing together chiefs and church, youth militia and regular military, women and civil administrators. Lou Nuer who had been displaced traveled from Khartoum, Malakal, and foreign countries to help rebuild their society. Daily attendance by the approximately one-hundred official delegates was matched by nearly one thousand (1000) additional participants who came to make sure that the peace was established.
During the signing of the Covenant and the placing of thumb-prints on the document, a young boy of about eight years was found crying outside the meeting hall. When asked why, he said it was because he wanted to put his print on the peace. He was escorted inside and proudly put his mark on the paper while the adults around encouraged him that this was a peace for him.
On Saturday morning, 6 November, the traditional people sacrificed a bull to seal their commitments. That night, after the signing of the Covenant, the Christian church choirs sang all night. Finally, at 6:30 a.m. the community met for an open-air worship service to celebrate the sealing of the Covenant of peace and to officially end the Peace Conference. There were 3,319 people present with more than a third of them in choirs, from little Sunday school groups to large adult choirs, from Presbyterian, Catholic, and Episcopal. Across denominations, beyond the lines of faith, blending civilians and military, young and old, chiefs and elders the people of the Lou Nuer have come together. It is another major step on the way to reconciliation of southern Sudan and the journey for a just peace for all of Sudan.
For More Information on the People-to-People Peace Process Contact:
Dr. Haruun Ruun
NSCC Executive Secretary
Mr. Telar Deng
Peace Desk Facilitator
Phone: 254-2-446966; 448141
(1) Attachment: Waat Lou Nuer Covenant