January 15-20, IFOR’s International Coordinator visited South Sudan, at the invitation of the Organization for Nonviolence and Development (ONAD). ONAD has been a part of IFOR since 2006. The visit was primarily to express solidarity with ONAD and the South Sudanese people in this period of intense violence in the country. The IFOR International Committee (ICOM) has long sought to prioritize support for nonviolent movements in Africa. The most recent months of violence in South Sudan have caused global concerned that the country was teetering towards genocide. ICOM and the International Secretariat felt it critical to express support for ONAD and find ways to amplify their efforts in the country. Commenting on the visit; Mr. Moses Monday, Executive Director of ONAD said “ This solidarity visit is warmly welcomed. It comes at a right and difficult time where our country and people suffer from the consequences of violent armed conflicts but at the same time has hope for a peaceful future. This is the first time IFOR top official visits the country.”
In a report sent to the International Coordinator, by one of ONAD's founding members, Light Aganwa offered his analysis of the crisis in the worlds newest country:
Since independence in 2011, South Sudan is characterized by unequal power and economic relations, corruption, marginalization, ethnic rivalries and exclusionary politics, and unaddressed local grievances that have fed militias and insurgencies countrywide, traditional inter-community feuds related to cattle raiding, oppressive political relations, prejudiced ethnic and cultural relations, and the whole system is sustained by violence. Hatred based on ethnicity and ethnic conflict is on the increase. Fighting and forced recruitment continue. People panic at the smallest alarm and at times even just on spotting a person in army uniform. Conflict in the country could be defined as pyramid, with the political leadership on the top. Under this are the elites and aristocrats and the standing army. None of those at the top of the pyramid produce anything themselves, they only pillage the people. So the peasants and workers at the bottom of the pyramid, the middle class and the ordinary citizens suffer to the limit of their survival.
While there, Rev. Johnson also met with the UN Mission in South Sudan who released a report on its findings shortly after Rev. Johnson arrived in Juba. The report chronicled the severe violations of human rights and the precarious situation in which the country now finds itself. (Click here to read the read the full report )
ONAD arranged for a week of intense meetings with staff and volunteers, beneficiaries of ONADs work, the Peace & Reconciliation Commission, top political leaders, Faith-based Groups, Regional and International Peace actors.
Given the acute level of crisis, conversations focused on what was needed to de-escalate the tensions and make progress towards reconciliation in the country. Intense and frank discussions were had about what was needed to support ONADs work on the national level and represent ONADs interests on the regional and international level. Rev. Johnson committed to report back to the IFOR network and organize increased cooperation in support of ONADs work. He offered this remark at the end of his trip: “The level of resilience, courage and hope of the South Sudanese people is remarkable. I believe that the work that ONAD is doing in South Sudan is vital and that it is truly responsible for saving lives and transforming communities. Yet, the scale of need in the country is tremendous and we must help ONAD increase its capacity to meet that need.”
He added: “IFOR’s representatives at the United Nations are prepared to represent concerns of ONAD and the nonviolent movement in South Sudan. IFOR has had a plan to more actively engage the African Union in Addis Ababa and the role the AU has played in the peace negotiations in South Sudan make that need all the more real.”