Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

The Journey to Peace in South Sudan

The Journey to Peace in South Sudan

Sr. Akumu Lily Grace, CMS
August 2014

It has taken me a couple of months now reflecting on South Sudan’s conflict that erupted in Juba on December 15th 2013 and the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in opposition in Addis Ababa. The question that lingers in my mind is; “Was this conflict necessary?” I am indebted to so many people including the international community who have been working tirelessly to ensure that the true peace returns in South Sudan. In spite of the breach to the cessation of hostilities agreement of May 9th 2014, many of them are still determined to walk the rough and tough road to peace for another round table discussion in Addis Ababa. I would like to thank every one of you involved in this peace process and may God bless your efforts.

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This unshakable desire to continue with the peace process provoked in me the thoughts on the words of Dag Hammarskjöld, the former UN Secretary General who died in a plane crash in September 1961, on his way to negotiate a ceasefire between non-combatant UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe in Congo. Dag said: "The longest journey of any person is the journey inward.” Each one of us may comprehend the quote differently but through my life’s experiences, the journey to explore our inner space is one of the most difficult and challenging journeys in the life of any person. It is much easier to take a plane and fly to Addis Ababa or to another known destination, unless the plane crashes like in the case of Dag. Today Dag challenges each one of us, a South Sudanese, those involved in the peace process in Addis Ababa and all those craving for peace in the youngest nation, “What kind of journey have I made within myself in order to contribute to this peace process in sincerity of heart?” “What baggage do I carry within me as an individual for the peace process?” I strongly believe that true peace in South Sudan should start with this inward journey, a journey of transparency towards oneself and to God, facing up the truth about myself, feelings and attitudes towards the others. We have each contributed to this conflict because of our selfishness, aggression, greed, gossips, jealousy and prejudices which divided us. It is important that we begin this inward journey no matter what it takes to realise, not only through rationalization or blaming the two parties, that you and I are also responsible for the existing conflict because we have contributed to it in our daily lives through hate speech, indifference and failing to act when needed.

As stated by Dag, our work of peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. In my view, to build peace in South Sudan we must be just and act without fear. How can we fight for freedom in the country if we are not free in our minds? What can you and I do to create a completely different South Sudan without boundaries? Each one of us is responsible for everyone’s security, safety and peace since peace is a collective responsibility of all of us and not only of President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar. We can only build a peaceful South Sudan, if we are ready to sacrifice and truly surrender to the interest of all which is a journey to be made at individual and societal level. I pray and hope that we may realise the significance of the present moment as a bridge between the past and future in South Sudan if we are capable of making this journey together.

Sr. Akumu Lily Grace is a Comboni Missionary Sister in South Sudan.