Date: 9 February 1999

From: New Sudan Council of Churches

Chiefs Exchange Visit Launches First Stage of Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference in southern Sudan

Nairobi, Kenya: Today the New Sudan Council of Churches announced that a historic effort at reconciling Sudanís two largest tribes is being launched with a high profile exchange of visits by Nuer and Dinka chiefs to each otherís areas. This will be the first stage moving toward a major indigenous peace conference which will begin in the coming days.

On Thursday, 11 February 1999, a plane carrying conference organizers and photo journalists from the Washington Post and LIFE Magazine will lift off from the Kenya border town of Loki on this emotionally charged flight. A delegation of three Nuer chiefs, a womenís leader and a church leader will be picked up in the towns of Nyal and Leer in Western Upper Nile which is in Nuerland. They will then fly to Rumbek to pick up three Dinka chiefs and finally land in Thiet to be greeted by additional Dinka chiefs and local authorities. This is in Bahr el Ghazal which has become known around the world in the past year with the devastating famine, rooted in the seemingly endless conflict.

After more than seven years of fighting and untold levels of suffering, a peopleís peace movement is underway, facilitated by the New Sudan Council of Churches and with the active support of the military and civil administrations in the area. This West Bank peace conference is a direct outgrowth of a nine-day peace conference that was held in June 1998 among key border chiefs and church leaders of the Dinka and Nuer from both sides of the Nile River in southern Sudan. On 10 June 1998 the Nuer-Dinka Loki Accord was signed launching this current effort. An East Bank conference in being planned to follow this one.

The chiefs exchange visit has two purposes. The first is to discuss the issue of security for the conference. And the second is to see the conference site and be able to report to their own people about the readiness for the peace conference.

Both the security and the site of the conference are unlike what may be expected in other conferences, sponsored by governments or international organizations and held in plush hotels or palaces. The Serbia-Kosovo conference being held in France is forcibly held under the threat of NATO bombing attacks, pressured with a two-week time line, and presented with a "peace accord" written almost in full by the international community. In south Sudan the Dinka are inviting hundreds of Nuer to come into their land unarmed and trust them to provide security for the conference. The Nuer chiefs, in this exchange visit, will sit with their Dinka counterparts and with some of the top leadership of the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement and discuss ways to be confident that they can advise their people from Nuerland to come into their "enemies" territory and feel safe.

After discussing the security situation the Dinka and Nuer chiefs and community leaders will travel to the conference site. There they will find that the Dinka youth and community have been working for months to build a village of peace to host the peace conference. One hundred fifty toukels (mud and thatch homes) have been built along with a meeting house to seat 1,000 and stores to keep supplies secure. Small villages will be organized for both Dinka and Nuer with cooking and eating arrangements built around chiefs and sectional networks. A common kitchen will serve the international observers expected and the other Sudanese visitors who plan to come from the East of the Nile so that they can catch the movement for peace and return to their homes to have their own peace conference.

At the end of the visit to Dinkaland, both Dinka and Nuer will board a plane and fly to Nuerland in Western Upper Nile. This will be an opportunity for them to show their unity of commitment to make peace, to report on the results of their discussions about security, and to tell the people of the work that has been accomplished to prepare the site for the peace conference.

Following the chiefs visits, both sides will come to agreement on any remaining steps that are needed to complete their confidence that the time has come for the conference to begin. Letters of assurance will be exchanged, stories will be told, and finally the signal will be given on both sides of their borders for the hundreds of chosen delegates on each side to make their way to the conference. Many will walk for days through difficult terrain. The price of peace will not come lightly. But the peacemakers in the bush of southern Sudan are taking the initiative for peace. It is going to be a story worth following.

The New Sudan Council of Churches will issue occasional Press Releases as Bulletins on the progress of this effort. International and local press representatives are welcome to take part. But in respect for this people-to-people process and the lengthy manner of meeting for many days of open discussion and debate, there will be a Press Embargo on stories being filed by reporters until after the conclusion of the Conference.

Inquiries may be made to the New Sudan Council of Churches regarding the process of reporters visiting the conference once it begins.


Dr. Haruun Ruun


For More Information Contact:


Executive Secretary




New Sudan Council of Churches


Phone: 254-2-446966/448141


Fax: 254-2-447015


Email: NSCC-NBO@maf.org