From 29-31 January 2015, Lotume peace conference took place in South Sudan. Lotume is a "boma" (village) located in the beautiful Kidepo Valley on the border with Uganda. Yet the natural beauty of the place is overshadowed by longstanding violent conflict between two ethnic groups: the Ketebo people from Ikotos county and the Didinga people from Budi county. Ongoing cattle raids between these groups, with often deadly consequences, hamper peace and development in the region.
As part of the "Peace Building, Decentralisation and Development" programme, VNG International, Pax for Peace and Cordaid organised a local peace conference to address the causes of conflict and come up with resolutions that contribute to long lasting peace. Representatives of the local government, including the Budi County Commissioner and Ikotos Executive Director, were present. Other dignitaries included the Minister of Local Government for Eastern Equatoria State, the Chairman of the Peace Commission and the Deputy Governor. But even more important was the presence of large parts of both communities: chiefs and elders, women and youth.
Sitting under a mango tree, each group got the opportunity to express their grievances and to explain what according to them were the underlying causes of conflict – a too high bridal price, unemployment, alcohol abuse, the availability of small arms, and impunity, to name a few. After two days of speeches and discussions, a number of resolutions were drafted and the peace agreement was signed by the local government officials as well as the chiefs representing both communities.
The signing of the peace agreement gives hope for peaceful coexistence of the Didinga and Ketebo communities, but implementing the resolutions will prove challenging. By simultaneously stimulating dialogue between the conflict affected groups, building the capacity of local government and creating peace dividend through small scale development projects, the VNG International, Pax for Peace and Cordaid consortium aims to strengthen this peace process.
For more info, you can read the post: VNG International, by VNG International junior project manager Sofie Dreef.