Women from multi-ethnic groups participate in agriculture value chain producer groups training in Golo village.

 

Marking the 2019 International Day of Peace on 21 September 2019, UNDP Sudan showcases its integrated peacebuilding project being implemented in an area that has only recently become accessible in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

From conflict hotbed to buffer of stability

Golo, a mountainous terrain is situated approximately 120 km north east of Central Darfur State capital - Zalingei and is an integral part of the hotbed of the Darfur conflict - Jebel Marra area. The area has until 2017, been the scene of frequent armed clashes between government forces and armed rebel groups. These clashes drove many of the area’s inhabitants to flee their homes to seek refuge in the neighboring localities, making the area difficult to access for relief agencies. However, since early 2018, there have been remarkable improvements in the overall security situation in the area as well as most parts of Darfur which has caused IDPs to return in great numbers to Golo and surrounding villages in Rokoro and Nertiti localities. Despite the fact that the relatively calm situation was marred by sporadic bouts of clashes between government and rebel forces in mid-2018, the population continued to return to the area and are appealing for interventions to improve basic services, access to land resources, ensure stability and better socio-economic means.

“Jebel Marra had been closed off from the rest of the world for a long time and deprived of opportunities for recovery and development due to the conflict that had been on-going between government and rebel groups; before some groups chose the path of peace and signed peace agreement with the government. Things are different now, far better!” said the Sheikh of Jebel Sumen village, Mr. Altahi Musa Eissa.

Golo and surrounding areas in Jebel Marra, Central Darfur

Against this backdrop, in 2018, UNDP initiated a Joint Peacebuilding Project with UNICEF dubbed - The Sustainable Returns and Peacebuilding through Durable Solutions and Rule of Law in Golo Project aimed at enhancing the peace and stability in the area; thereby creating an enabling environment for sustainable return and reintegration of IDPs and ensuring peaceful co-existence among different groups.  The project has been implementing a wide range of recovery activities to establish and enhance rule of law, prevent conflict through capacity building of state and non-state actors, and to improve livelihoods, support local economic recovery and basic services for the area’s returnees, IDPs and host communities.

Funded by the UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) at a value of US$ 3 million and jointly implemented by UNDP and UNICEF for the period of 2018 till 2020, the area-based project have so far achieved solid results with strong engagement and acceptance of communities despite the tough environment in which the project operates. 

The project started its activities with a baseline survey, in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Development Studies at University of Zalingei, in order to guide its interventions. The survey revealed a poor perfection of the formal justice and rule of law institutions by the community members.  According to the survey, 83 percent of the community members trust the informal justice system led by the community leaders, while only five percent trust the formal courts and five percent trust the police; 29 percent reported having been involved in a land-related communal conflict in the last twelve months. Based on these findings, the project further customized its interventions to ensure relevance to the prevailing gaps and amplify benefits.

The survey was met with approval by members of the community. "We have never had anyone coming to Golo asking us of our needs on improving security, livelihoods and basic services, since our displacement!" – says Ahmed Mohammed Fadul, 46-year-old returnee in Golo town, expressing his gratitude for being interviewed as it was his first time to be asked questions on security, rule of law, livelihood means and the status of basic services in their community.

 

Stepping stone to peace

As part of its strategy to address the needs for rule of law and local justice mechanisms, the project is constructing physical assets to be owned by Golo community. One of these assets is a Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Center (PJRC) to provide reconciliation, mediation services and legal awareness raising services to the community. For the construction, instead of using bricks that have to be cured by firewood, the project has opted to use stones, abundantly found in the area. The reason - accessing forests for firewood to cure bricks, in an area where ownership of forests is contestable in the absence of proper land registration and regulations, has been a source of conflict between host communities and IDPs as well as a serious protection issue for women who venture into the forests to collect firewood.

The use of stones instead of bricks is a preventive measure to reduce conflict, creating a strong peace incentive for communities due to significant reduction in natural resource-related clashes between host communities and IDPs. This choice by the project has set an example for most Golo households to use the abundant stones in the area to build their houses and therefore reduce environmental risks of deforestation and incidence of conflicts between communities.

Golo Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Centre under construction using stones instead of bricks that require curation by firewood, a spark for local tensions between returnees and IDPs as well as female security as they go for firewood collection.

 

From #MeToo to #WomenShould

The project is actively working in uplifting women's roles in all community based informal systems under production.  It supported the establishment of 14 new Community-Based Conflict Resolution Mechanisms (CBRMs) which included women for the first time. This is an approach that UNDP will be promoting in its early recovery and peace building and social cohesion programmes. Traditional CBRMs mainly comprised of only men and had prevented women from reporting sensitive cases, especially those related to protection including Sexual & Gender Based Violence (SGBV). The new 14 CBRMs are now made up of 33% women who are trained by the project on conflict resolution, mediation techniques, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence and have begun adjudicating cases since July 2019. This informal system is linked and complemented to the formal Government of Sudan rule of law structures in the locality.

Women in particular from Fur and other tribes[1] in Golo, participated in productive agricultural activities where 120 of them are members in the community value chain producer groups for citrus and potato production. Through the eight farmer field schools established by the project, these producer groups were trained on commodity production for markets, quality control and collective marketing, contributing to not only local livelihood improvements but also promoting social cohesion between the often-clashing tribal groups.

 

Cross fertilizing UNDP signature programmes for youth

Ensuring that Golo is not excluded from UNDP’s long-standing Darfur-wide signature Youth volunteer empowerment activities, for the very first time - five young men and three young women in Golo from the Fur and other tribes were selected and trained under the Youth Volunteers Supporting Peace and Recovery in Darfur Project (YOVORED)  funded by the Korea International Cooperation (KOICA) which is linked to and combing efforts with the Golo project. Trained on business development for peace, environmental planning and community engagement, the youth mobilized peers in their communities to organize a series of peace events in Golo, which included inter-tribal soccer matches, drama, music activities advocating the importance of peace. These events were attended by over 1,000 people from Fur (90%) and other tribes (10%).

Golo Youth Volunteers in yellow jerseys were lead organizer of inter-tribal soccer match, amongst other peace events held in the area during 2019

 

In addition, through UNICEF 2,000 people in Golo have access to safe drinking water by the rehabilitation of handpumps, water yards and construction of two new water sources thanks to the project. The WASH committees established to maintain these community infrastructures were trained in a series of maintenance techniques building new skills and options of livelihoods.

Maria Abaker Osman, the Head of Gender and Peacebuilding Unit at the Institute Peace and Development Studies.

The importance of this project in supporting peace and recovery of the Golo area is best described by Maria Abaker Osman, the Head of Gender and Peacebuilding Unit at the Institute Peace and Development Studies. Maria, who has been directly involved in the project and trained the area’s youth on peacebuilding, mediation techniques, peaceful coexistence, gender equality, formal and informal peacebuilding measures, said “the peacebuilding project has been catalytic to Golo's stability. I urge the world to support Darfur communities particularly Golo since it has been the epicenter of multiple conflicts in Darfur. In the meantime, a rights-based approach on maintaining and building peace would be ideal, building on the strides made by this project. Women in Darfur want peace and they will utilize all their strengths to bring peace to Golo, Darfur since they are the ones bearing the biggest brunt”.

 

UNDP thanks the UN Secretary General's Peacebuilding Fund and its partners for the Golo project: UNICEF, UNAMID, Jebel Marra Rural Development Project, Technology Transfer & Productivity Platform, University of Zalingei, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, State Council on Child Welfare, Water and Environmental Sanitation Project, Siyaj Charity Organisation, and War Child Canada.

UNDP also thanks Republic of Korea, long term donor of UNDP’s Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Project who supported Golo Youth Volunteers.

 

 

[1] Other tribes - Masaleet, Zagawa, Tama, Zreigat, Nawaiba, Am Jalol, Falat, Ta’a lba, and Bargo

Disclaimer: The names and boundaries shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

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