UN-backed peace talks seek to end violent ethnic clashes in South Sudan

Special Representative Hilde Johnson.
UN Photo/Tim McKulka
Special Representative Hilde Johnson.

UN-backed peace talks seek to end violent ethnic clashes in South Sudan

Two ethnic communities that had previously engaged in violent attacks in South Sudan took part in a series of United Nations-backed peace talks which seek to put an end to conflict in the country’s Jonglei state that has resulted in more than 600 casualties this year.

According to a news release issued yesterday by the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the two-day peace building and reconciliation effort, which concluded earlier this week, aimed to establish a dialogue between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities and boost security in the region.

Hilde F. Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMISS, who has been supporting authorities in preventing a further escalation of communal violence, met with Government officials and local chiefs and stressed the need to hear from both communities and ensure the continuation of the reconciliation process.

“We have air surveillance over the territory daily to monitor the situation on the ground [and] we have deployed a team to engage with the communities,” Ms. Johnson said. “We managed collectively… to hold back retaliation. Now we have to make sure that the peace and reconciliation process we supported comes to a successful completion.”

The reconciliation efforts are led by the South Sudan Council of Churches and began earlier this month after a consultative workshop between the council, the UN and Government officials in the state capital, Bor.

Ms. Johnson met with the state Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, who promised that his administration would support the peace building process.

After reports of the first attacks in the region, UNMISS responded by deploying troops to the two counties to deter a counter-attack and has been working with local police forces and the military to strengthen security in the area.