“Will we have peace or not?”
This question is in the minds of many South Sudanese as they wait to see whether a unified transitional government will be formed in the coming weeks as part of the implementation of a revitalized peace agreement signed last September.
In Maridi, the question was asked by senior citizen Michael Bazia who was taking part in a special event to promote understanding peace agreement, hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in partnership with the National Pre-Transitional Committee.
Crowds of enthusiastic residents from the town in the Western Equatorian region flocked to the event despite overcast skies and flashes of lightening warning of imminent rain as the day dawned. They were just so eager to hear directly from representatives of all the political parties involved in the peace process on their maiden visit to the area.
Many of those present expressed concern about whether the peace process is genuine this time round.
“Our biggest concern is that failure to implement this peace agreement may cause a return to war and this is what we do not want,” said Michael Bazia.
Women made up the majority of those attending the event. Mama Sarah Bennet Gugu gave voice to their concerns.
“How are they going to bring justice for we, the women who lost husbands and children during this war? Who is going to bring justice to our murdered beloved ones?” she asked. “We have also lost all our belongings as we escaped the villages to seek refuge here in this town. Who is going compensate us?”
Most of the people living in Maridi are subsistence farmers and the war has taken a huge toll on their productivity in an area that has the potential to be the breadbasket for the region.
For local farmer, Dago Amos Daniearmer, the event provided the first opportunity for him to hear details of the peace agreement first-hand from the NPTC members. It gave him hope that he will soon be able to return to his farm to grow his crops as peace descends on the region.
“We have been staying here in town, jobless. If this information we hear is correct, then there will be no need for me to stay in town anymore,” he mused hopefully. “I think someone will be able to go to cultivate his farm next year!”
Nekaya Clement, an accountant at the state ministry of health, had words of hope and encouragement as she listened to the presentation from political leaders.
“I will be the happiest person if our leaders implement what we have just heard,” she said. “Only we are waiting for 12 November [when a new unified transitional government is due to be formed] to celebrate the real peace.”
And the rains finally did come! But fortunately, after the day’s festivities were done, as if to crown all the hopes and prayers the people of Maridi have for peace with an “Amen”.