Peace Dialogue by Augustino Lucano
Journey to South Sudan on December 7, 2020
My journey to South Sudan in December 2020 was to mobilize the community to complete a feeder road from Maji to Napotpot (in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan). However, the cattle keepers presented a huge, imminent threat to the volunteer community members keen to start the feeder road. Therefore, the community preferred to have a peace dialogue with the neighbours first before starting the feeder road. Unfortunately, I ran out of time, but the message for peace dialogue spread around. The religious communities and the local communities were getting together to discuss peace dialogues.
Long trip to Ngatuba Village July 23, 2021
While I was in Ngatuba Village, Pastor Lotuluba Paul had agreed to meet with me in Maji, but was unable to make it before I left. However, when I returned to Canada, I received a phone call from him. He was inspired by the community work and peace initiative for Maji. I had a long discussion about peace initiative dialogue on the phone with him. He promised me that he will go to Maji to meet with the Chief of Ngatuba, Akileo and his colleagues to discuss about peace initiative dialogue. Indeed, Pastor Lotuluba Paul surprised me one morning with the video he took in Ngatuba of the meeting he had with community in the same place that I also had community meeting. He decided to go to Maji, but he was advised by the community members not to go due to the cattle raiding activities which makes the area unsafe. Paul took the initiative to convince his church to build a church in Maji by the end of this year. And Paul is scheduling to attend the upcoming peace dialogue between the Didinga and the Toposa in Maji.
Peace Initiative Meeting in Charit Village, August 25, 2021
In fact, for a second time, Paul was determined to travel to Charit which is the next community to Ngatuba. He held another dialogue initiative meeting with the people of Charit. He was amazed to learn that all the little children asked him where is Augustino. The families and their children through Paul, urged him to tell Augustino to bring peace meeting with the Toposa. Again, the children expressed a great desire for peace so that they can go to school. They begged Paul to convey their message. Both children and their families cried for peace and development. They are tired of war. They need everlasting peace and development. The women expressed that they are tired of sleeping in the forests due to the fear that cattle raiders often burn villages down. They are fearful to collect firewood in the jungle, to fetch water in the rivers or to get green vegetables in the wilderness. They could not cultivate their gardens because the cattle raiders have created enmity between the neighbouring tribes.
Peace Dialogue in Ngauro, September 20-23, 2021
In black coat on the left [in the picture above] is Honourable Akileo Mboya, the Commissioner of Budi County. Next to him in blue is Abdallah Lokeno, the Commissioner of Narus, Kapoeta East. Further to the right next to Abdallah in black suit is former Speaker of defunct Kapoeta State parliament, Bosco Lotyang. To his right in a black shirt is MP, Jervasio Amotun.
Akileo Mboya wrote that “This is just happening now in Ngauro, the golden city of Eastern Equatoria. Stay tuned for more details, give peace a chance for a prosperous society. Honourable Abdallah Angelo Lokeno, Commissioner of Kapoeta East addressing the delegates of the peace conference in Ngauro, the golden city of Easter Equatoria”.
Prior to the meeting, Abdallah and Akileo informed me that there was going to be a peace dialogue in Ngauro between the Toposa community and the Didinga community. The local CBOs, Nyekiriket had organized the peace dialogue. The peace dialogue was fruitful. At the end of the peace dialogue both the Didinga and the Toposa had buried the war hatchet. The two communities came together and celebrated their reconciliation. They promised each other never to fight again. They look forward for more reconciliation and forgiveness.
During the peace dialogue, Chief Akileo Achulo read a note. He finally met with the Kraal leaders. In green is Lokalio, and in brown coat is Marino. They met and revisited the previous letters that we exchanged through the bush. Akileo and I had written the first letter, and Akileo risked his life when he went to pin the letter on the tree in the river of Lokayot where Lokalio and Marino brought their cows to drink, but they cannot meet each other there because of hostility. Lokayot River was no man’s land.
Lokalio and Marino, through William Karisio, promised to come to Maji for peace talks and they urged the government representative to provide police in Maji. They also promised that they will open the road from Napotpot to Maji.
“God will answer everything through our most able peace-loving Honourable Akileo Mboya, the Commissioner of Budi County”, William Karisio stated. William is the local journalist in the area; he was inspired by the peace initiative, and participated in the Maji peace initiative. William covered the story of Maji peace initiative for Sangaita Community Radio.
After the peace dialogue in Ngauro, the two communities had decided to plan the next peace dialogue which will be held in Maji. The two communities are waiting for the dry season. There is so much rain in South Sudan. The Toposa community paved the feeder road from Napotpot to somewhere close to Maji, but it was not completed. The Toposa agreed to complete the feeder road.
The Commissioner of Narus, Abdallah Lokeno promised to the Didinga Community that he will write a letter through Chief Akileo Achulo to inform him to bring the Didinga Community to Maji to have the peace dialogue with the Toposa Community. Abdallah is waiting for the dry season and then he will send the letter to invite the Didinga Community to meet in Maji this year.
I phoned Honourable Abdallah this week to follow up about the peace dialogue. He informed me that the peace dialogue will take place after the rain stopped. He expected me to join them in the peace dialogue. He jokingly urged me to bring the Didinga Community, and he will bring the Toposa Community for the meaningful peace dialogue.
Indeed, my community begged me to go home to bring the Toposa Community together for the peace dialogue. The good news is that I just received the report on Oct 16, 2021, that the Toposa Community are paving the feeder road towards Maji and the Didinga community members went to Maji to start the feeder road towards Napotpot, and they will meet in the middle with the Toposa Community. The Commissioner of Budi County, Akileo Mboya stated that, “The preparation for the feeder road is for the coming peace dialogue in Maji.”
With great excitement, the Southern Sudanese Children’s Literacy Foundation (SSCLF) will send two delegates to attend the upcoming peace dialogue in Maji this year. The members of SSCLF have been engaged with community work in South Sudan. They have built a Primary School in Ngatuba Village.
The civil war that broke out on December 13, 2013, in South Sudan stopped all the developments in the country. The communities have been broken into pieces with civil wars and stricken with poverty which has perpetuated the cattle raiding. Now, the civil war has stopped so the people are trying to regain their strength for the communities. Therefore, SSCLF members are hoping to provide some support to cultivate the seeds for peace through peace dialogues. We hope to bring sustainable peace and development in the area so that the families and their children can live peacefully with their neighboring communities.
Augustino Lucano is South Sudanese. He was a refugee, student, social worker, and president of his own not-for-profit NGO. In 2015, Lucano received his a Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Dalhousie University in New Brunswick, Canada. He also holds a Social Work Diploma from Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta. He worked as a Multicultural Support Worker, and a family Support Counsellor in Calgary, connecting students and families of new immigrants with community resources.
Lucano spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before receiving refugee status in 1990 and went to Canada in pursuit of education, employment, and peace. Lucano volunteers with The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre at the University of Calgary. He co-founded The Southern Sudanese Children’s Literacy Foundation (SSCLF) to help children and families in South Sudan. Read his earlier piece at FictiveMag, The Road to Maji.