To help Sudan rebuild, recover and cope with its vulnerability due to years of protracted conflict and displacement, UNDP adopts a conflict-sensitive approach to its recovery and development interventions. This approach to development is founded on conflict prevention and building of peace strategies that is deeply linked with local economic recovery while tackling the root drivers of instability such as institutional and capacity gaps, environmental threats, gender inequalities, and human security challenges. Anchored on these principles, UNDP promotes stabilization and social cohesion in all states of Sudan, with focus on conflict-affected areas of Darfur and the states bordering South Sudan.

In commemoration of 2019 International Day of Peace, 21 September, UNDP Sudan is pleased to introduce you to two of our Peacebuilding Champions – Maria Abaker and Jabir Mohammed - who are supported by UNDP projects in two of our focus areas: Central Darfur and Blue Nile states respectively.  

 

Lady on a Mission: Peacebuilding Champion MARIA from Central Darfur

Meet Maria Abaker Osman (32 years). She is the Head of Gender and Peacebuilding Unit at the Institute of Peace and Development Studies of the University of Zalingei in Sudan’s Central Darfur state.

Maria has truly proved herself to be a lady on a mission. Apart from teaching students at the University on Gender and Peacebuilding, Maria has co-facilitated the conflict analysis workshop in Golo, a town 120 km north east of the state capital Zalingei, for the joint UNDP-UNICEF peacebuilding project funded by the UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund. She has been working with the project for the past 18 months.

Peacebuilding to Maria covers all efforts aimed at reducing conflict and promoting peaceful coexistence with the involvement of government, community, national and international players. Peacebuilding is particularly significant in her home region of Darfur, where a conflict ongoing since 2013 has left the region in dire need of peace. Although security has recently improved, the root causes of the conflict are not completely resolved, feeding into an unpredictable situation. 

 

Site of UNDP-UNICEF project - “Sustainable Returns and Peacebuilding through Durable Solutions and Rule of Law in Golo”

In her role as Head of Gender and Peacebuilding Unit, Maria has trained over 900 youth (40% female) from Central Darfur on mediation techniques, peaceful coexistence, formal and informal gender equality as well as peacebuilding initiatives. As a result, the youth organized a series of peace events in Golo, which included inter-tribal soccer matches, drama, and music activities advocating the importance of peace. These events were attended by over 1,000 people from the Fur and other local tribes who are normally and directly affected by any surge of tension in the area. Under her guidance, these trained youth are currently building peace committees back in their communities across Central Darfur, serving as local peace ambassadors.

In a message to the world, Maria says “the UNDP project has played a catalytic role for Central Darfur. I urge the world to support Darfur communities, particularly Golo, since it remains the epicenter of multiple conflicts in Darfur because of its proximity to Jebel Marra, a hotbed for armed conflict.  In the meantime, a rights-based approach on maintaining and building peace would be ideal, consolidating the strides already made by the project. Women in Darfur want peace and we will utilize all our strengths to bring peace to Golo, Darfur, since we are the ones bearing the biggest brunt of the conflict.”

 

Reformed Community Leader: Jabir Mohamed Aweel, Sheikh from Derange, Blue Nile state

Jabir Mohamed, from Derange village in Bau locality of Blue Nile State, considers himself to be a ‘Reformed Community Leader’. Explaining the description, he says “I am a community leader who has made many mistakes in the past. For instance, I would always rule in favor of my people when they come into conflict with the nomads.”

He continues “I also did not give enough consideration to any case that was brought to me unless I was rewarded, and even then, I would not exert much efforts to investigate further. However, attending peacebuilding workshops organized by UNDP’s Community Security and Stabilization Programme (C2SP), I have learned a lot from my previous mistakes as a leader and now I feel in a better position to address tribal disputes.  The workshops were important to enlighten me about my role as a community leader.”

Jabir Mohammed is the chair of the peace committee in Derange village of Bau locality, 65 km south of Blue Nile state capital Ed Damazine. Established with the support of the UNDP C2SP project, he describes the functions and importance of the peace committee in his community. “Since the formation of the peace committee, there is much less tension and conflict within my community. This is ensured through the formation of a sub-committee which is in charge of investigating the conflict and assessing the damages resulting from it, to assist the committee in identifying penalties if needed for the settlement of disputes.  However, there are many times when people forgive each other without the need of paying for the damages caused, which is good. I now feel that the community understands the catalytic role of the peacebuilding committee.” 

 

C2SP project supported community in Blue Nile state – Derange, Bau locality, south of state capital Damazine.

Derange is a junction point for nomadic pastoralists from different ethnic groups in Blue Nile state, who migrate through the landscape on a seasonal basis. During rainy season, large number of cattle come to the area for grazing. Additionally, the area hosts different agriculture schemes owned by individuals, big companies as well as small farmers. As a result, the area becomes narrow for the huge number of cattle moving around, causing farm destruction and thus leading to conflict between farmers and pastoralists. Derange is also characterized by carom mining which is dominated by a few cooperative committees. When individual youth or woman come to practice artisan mining, they face objections from members of the cooperative committees, leading to disputes and conflicts. All these potential tension points are simmering underneath Derange’s stabilization fabric. These tension points can easily escalate without the fair and just role of the peacebuilding committee in conflict resolution.

Jabir recounts an example. “One of the biggest disputes that occurred was between a farmer and a pastoralist. During dry season, the nomads had taken their cattle south. When they came back, the farmers from our village expanded their farms blocking the passages that the nomads traversed. That can sometimes lead cows to eat the crops and damage the farms.  When this happened, the farmer was the one to complain to the peace committee. His complaint was immediately addressed. We invited him and the pastoralist to come before the committee and explain his side of the problem. We formed a team to investigate the area where the cows damaged the farm and we found out that these areas were the routes that the nomads had been using for many years. It was our first time to resolve the dispute in favor of the nomads, unlike earlier instances. This shows that this peace committee in Derange is delivering fair and balanced justice in the area. We later asked the farmers not to block the roads and to create routes around their farms so that cattle can reach water points.  These actions, which we took last year, led to a better season this year with fewer clashes as nomads were able to move their cattle to water points without crossing any farms. We marked passages with stones and the whole area is much organized now.”

Stressing the role of women in building peace, Jabir proudly says “Having women in this committee is very essential as women usually did not have a voice here. We are the first village to have such kind of trainings in our region. These trainings have enlightened us on the important roles that women can play. Because of this realization, our peacebuilding committee has earned a good reputation, to the point where neighboring villages come to us for assistance regarding their disputes.”

Voicing his gratitude, Jabir says “Thanks to the capacity building, guidance and workshops provided by C2SP, we feel more united with our brothers from the nomadic tribes than we felt before. Now they are also part of the committee and there is a lot we can do together.”

C2SP has been working on building security and stabilization of vulnerable population in the Two Areas since 2015. C2SP has been generously funded by Japan, Sweden, Italy, the UK, and Spain.

 

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

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