Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

Sudan: Take traditional route to peace in south, urge analysts

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 2 December 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Sudan: Take traditional route to peace in south, urge analysts, 2 December 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b19138f1a.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

TORIT, 2 December 2009 (IRIN) - An ancient tradition of community governance in Southern Sudan could encourage peace-building among warring communities, say researchers.

The "monyomiji" institution encourages young and middle-aged men to collectively assume responsibility for community and inter-community affairs. The system, according to Eisei Kurimoto of Osaka University and Dimon Simonse, senior adviser to the advocacy group Pax Christi, could be an important asset in post-war peace-building, reconstruction and development.

Early this year, for example, when the Murle ethnic group attacked communities in Eastern Equatoria, the monyomiji took up arms to defend their people.

"They defended the land from the Murle," Brigadier Eluzai Mogga Ladu, director of Southern Sudan prison services academy, told IRIN in Torit.

"Now they are protecting the land by doing daily patrols along the village," he added. "This is their role as defenders in the village. They declare war, peace, run the community [and] can overrule chiefs."

Monyomiji were at the heart of the Anyanya I, for which many were imprisoned. Anyanya I was a southern Sudanese separatist army formed during the first civil in 1955. Anyanya II arose during the second civil war in 1987.

Upon release from Anyanya I, they later enlisted their communities in Anyanya II and then into the north-south conflict that ended with the 2005 peace accord signed in Kenya.

When the Lord's Resistance Army moved into Eastern Equatoria in 2003, at the height of the Ugandan army offensive, the Sudan People's Liberation Army provided arms to monyomiji to push back the Ugandan rebels, according to Ladu.

They maintain law and order, issue regulations and decrees, settle disputes and impose punishment on offenders. They also watch over the king or chief and monitor disasters, drought, floods, pests, storms, soil fertility and the health of their communities.

Resurrect system?

Recognising its potential, Southern Sudanese leaders are now considering resurrecting the system. Representatives of monyomiji groups, civil society and government met in Torit last week to discuss how to link the traditional system to the formal system of governance.

"We are struck by the uniqueness of them - and effectiveness," Simones told the Engaging Monyomiji: Bridging the Governance Gap in East Bank Equatoria meeting at Torit Hotel, from 26-28 November.

"We see it as a resource for development of better government," he added.

Force for change

According to Simones, the system embodies the notion of a public cause over private interests of clans and families. It also brings progressive change, and encourages debate.

"Every new generation is coming with a new programme to realize that aspect," he said. "Every time a new generation comes up, new ideas come up, so monyomiji are change agents."

To join the monyomiji, a generation must compete against the incumbent leadership, for instance, in a buffalo hunt. When one person in the young generation wins against a sitting monyomiji, the older generation is replaced en masse.

Kurimoto said the relationship between this governance system and the SPLM was close during the years of war between the south and north.

"But after the CPA it went wrong. And people are experiencing more insecurity and instability... we have to reset the system."

Way forward

Eastern Equatoria Governor Emor Ojetuk said grassroots implementers from the community were often left out of discussions, creating gaps in what needed to be implemented.

"Government is not parliament, ministers; government is all of us," he told the conference. "If the government is all of us and if we have gaps, how are these gaps created... they need to be narrowed down."

The implementation of structures agreed during the north-south peace talks, for example, including state assemblies and national parliament, had not been well understood by the people, said Lais Ohisa, cultural expert at Juba University.

"This is the situation that seems to be prevailing up to now," he said. "The current insecurity in the villages is due to the absence of government on the ground."

Conference participants said monyomiji should be recognized as a legitimate institution of governance at the community level, and its representatives included in Boma and Payam councils. Currently, the system is practised by a dozen communities in Eastern and Central Equatoria States.

Southern Sudan has suffered widespread inter-ethnic conflict over recent years. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, and others killed in skirmishes, according to aid workers.

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