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People for Peace: Building consensus among local communities for peaceful coexistence in South Sudan with Francis Shuei

By: Samira Y. Salifu

Meet Mr. Francis Shuei who has been working with the United Nations to create and strengthen peaceful communities in Sudan and South Sudan since 2006. Having started as a Language Assistant with the past UN Mission in Sudan, he now serves as a Civil Affairs Officer for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where he supports the resolution of communal conflicts at the subnational level.

“I come from Jonglei in South Sudan but have lived in other parts of the country for most of my life. In places like Malakal, where I lived a very long time, the people know me because I seemed to be everywhere. At one time as a teacher, then a journalist, and a tracing and dissemination officer.

With strong ties to local communities, joining the UN Mission to help build peace at the grassroots seemed fated.

I work in a team which spends most of its time on the ground with the people. We assess the root causes of endemic conflicts here in the Eastern Equatorian State, which are largely fueled by farmer-herder tensions over access to water points and grazing lands and can be detrimental to livelihoods.

Our work guarantees that communication lines remain open between feuding communities so that we can work together to prevent escalations during conflicts.

And because I usually know people on both sides of the aisle, my role involves engaging with such communities, as well as local authorities, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to resolve disagreements.

I find great fulfillment in what I do.

One of my many happy memories traces back to 2018, when we organized the “Chorokol Pre-Migration Conference” that brought together seven Counties in Eastern Equatoria State. The forum was a huge success and saw cattle-keeping communities with cycles of cattle raids and revenge killings, as well as their political representatives successfully deliberating on ways forward.

That dialogue resulted in the signing of an agreement to advance peaceful coexistence and to regulate, control and manage cattle movements between the counties of Kidepo Valley, Riwoto, Ikotos, Chukudum, Torit East, Kimotong and Lopa.

This kind of direct access to community folk means that we can understand the most pressing issues of the people we serve and provide them with timely and appropriate assistance.

Of course, there are many hurdles on the job. A minor one is that sometimes, communities can assume that it is the job of the UN to implement resolutions they have made at peace dialogues. When this happens, we invest more time to emphasize that the resolutions are theirs and in their capacity to achieve.

As far as I am concerned, South Sudan’s transition from conflict to durable peace depends on each South Sudanese, and how we strive to ensure that the peace we want means justice for all, where the rights of all are respected, promoted and protected.

The people must identify with the country and accept each other. Because, although we did not choose where we were born or our parents, we are divinely distributed as diversely as we are. And that diversity can bring beauty when well managed.”

For 75 years, UN peacekeepers have worked alongside international partners, community leaders and Member States to save and change lives in the world’s most fragile political and security situations. These are ordinary people striving to achieve extraordinary outcomes in often difficult and dangerous situations. They are People for Peace, and these are their stories.