In that month alone, the team together with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and local actors organized six events, its Team Leader, Lt. Col. Ahmed Yousif, says. This report on best practices is a testimonial to the team’s ingenious innovation repurposing itself during a fortunate time in which there was prevailing peace in their area of responsibility – Northern Bahr el-Ghazal – the team members made themselves busy by being creative through a close and appropriate reading of the agreement and the undertaking of engagement with the civilian communities in which it operates.
Lt. Col. Thomas Kiseu, an international observer from Kenya and member of the team talks of the key provisions in Chapter II of the ACOH (21 Dec 2017) detailing CTSAMM Mandate: “Part I Art. 3 Sub Sections 1 and 2 (g) – monitoring whether the Parties respect and comply with international law and adhere to the prohibition on sexual violence. Part II, Articles 5, 6, 7 – the Parties’ obligation to protect civilians and respect their rights and property. Part III, Articles 8 and 9 – monitoring humanitarian access as well as demobilization, release of abducted children, women and detained persons.”
Two of the four workshops last month were open sensitization and discussion forums the team conducted to a grassroots youth organization called Golden Jubilee and Hajar Cultural Group for Drama and Traditional Arts at Aweil National Theater. The focus discussion revolved around CTSAMM mandate, the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access (ACOH) and the role of drama and traditional arts in promoting peace at the community level. 25 boys and girls of the youth group participated.
The MVT participated in two workshops facilitated by a local NGO called Help Restore Youth (HERY) in partnership with UNDP in Aweil town. The objectives of the workshops were to create awareness on Chapter 5 (the transitional Justice) of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), the role of the civil society organizations in reconciliation, conflict mitigation and peacebuilding at the grassroots level. The MVT presentation focused on CTSAMM mandate, responsibilities and an update on the progress of South Sudan peace process. There were a total of 134 participants in the two workshops.
Garang Buk is member of HERY and one of the beneficiaries of this forum. His group took the initiative to translate into Dinka language Chapter 5 (the transitional Justice) of the ARCSS. But, to do more and take the word to the people, they need support from local and international partners. “We do awareness training, we hold rallies. As a community-based organization, the first thing we do is to help the people understand what the agreement is all about and to inculcate in them the fact that they are part and parcel of the agreement, that they have a role to play” Garang noted.
Margaret Francis from the Women Group is also another beneficiary of the activities of Aweil MVT. “As the result of the training we got, we have come to understand about the role of CTSAMM in the peace process and the part we as civil society should play,” she said.
The MVT members also participated in a workshop facilitated by UNMISS’ Civil Affairs Department in Mapair. The topics covered UNMISS Mandate, SOFA and SOMA and the role of civil society organizations in the ongoing peace process. About 50 people representing political parties, government officials, activists, local leaders, elders, youth and women groups and other representatives of the community took part.
Another such workshop was conducted in Wanyjok, Aweil East, located 36kms north of Aweil town where the MVT members participated in a People to People Grassroots Peace Conference on post migration issues between the Dinka Malual of South Sudan and Misseryia tribe from Sudan. The MVT had an opportunity to give presentation and sensitization on CTSAMM Mandate, the ACOH and responsibilities of all parties, including community and political leaders in the county in promoting the South Sudan peace process.
The MVT also participated in a Workshop facilitated by UNMISS Civil Affairs Department on conflict related sexual gender based violence (SGBV). It was provided to 54 SPLA officers (among them 7 female) in Wonjike. The MVT presentation focused on CTSAMM mandate, promotion of the peace agreements and the role of the national military in the promotion of peace and protection of civilians from all sorts of abuse like SGBV.
The coordination with UNMISS’ various units like Civil Affairs, Human Rights, Admin Support, Child Protection, and Military Liaison Officers is a symbiotic one as it helps both sides fulfil their mandate. “One of the mandates of the UNMISS is to support CTSAMM to carry out its activities so that it monitors the implementation of the peace agreement. So, when we relate with UNMISS, they are engaging with their actual partner to fulfil their mandate,” Lt. Col. Thomas Kiseu noted.
Aweil MVT is composed of five international observers from four countries of the region, one Community Liaison Officer and two South Sudanese drivers. The two Sudanese members of the team, Lt. Col. Ahmed Yousif and Lt Col Salah Aldenawad are fluent in Arabic, making the team’s communication with the locals easy. The team also wears the gender lens in all its activities. Lt Col Mariam Natukunda is always handy to handle gender-sensitive issues with women of the area. “The women have a lot of issues like rape and divorce. They cannot tell the men. But, when I meet them, they are happy and we discuss as women,” says Mariam echoing the global ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund actress Ashley Judd’s “We’re all women and we’re all the same” message in Juba recently. Mariam suggests all the MVTs should have female monitors.
Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) are effective in bridging the gap between monitors and in sharing local knowledge and information. One of the CLOs for MVT Aweil says he and the team are trying to dispel misinformation and confusion about the peace agreement and CTSAMM. “For instance, we were approached by the youth of the Hajar Group who requested briefing from us saying ‘the information we are receiving from the media and some politicians has been confusing us. Since you are here now, tell us the truth’. After we held discussions, they told us that they are now clear on the issues and that they now know who to report to’.”
The synergy that the Aweil team is displaying has helped it accomplish concrete results and is winning the hearts and minds of the local population, an example to be emulated by other teams. That is living the saying: “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”