Uncertainty – The Greatest Barrier to Peace

Sep 20, 2016

Continuing our On the Ground series, we spoke to our colleague Gulliver Ishmael, who works at SEM (Sudan Evangelical Mission). Recently, South Sudan has been rocked by more violence and disruption. Here he tells us about his work and explains the challenges people are facing in the area.

“SEM is currently working in Mundri West, Mundri East and Mvolo Counties in Amadi State and in Maridi and Ibba Counties in Maridi Counties of South Sudan. However, since May 2015, the activities have been affected by insecurity in the area. In September and October 2015, SEM Head Office in Mundri was broken into and looted of cash and assorted items that are crucial to our work, like our laptops.

SEM staff faced challenges with movement to carry out their day-to-day activities. Similar cases of looting of items were also experienced by other NGOs and churches like Diocese of Mundri and Lui. These paralyzed SEM activities during the period of the conflict.

In some of the most tragic cases, people lost their loved ones and friends in senseless acts of violence.

The community were not also left out, all experienced problems as a result of the conflict. Many lost belonging from their houses, or their entire property. Most businesses came to a standstill and markets, shops were also looted and remain closed for months. The conflict forced many civilian populations to flee out of the town for safety. People were scattered to villages and bush without access to basic services, including food and other necessities. This can be particularly dangerous for young people and women, as in the bush, where there are no street lights or infrastructure, lawlessness often reigns. Others integrated into host community with their relatives and friends. All have experienced suffering and insecurity.

Perhaps even more challenging than that is the overall level of uncertainty within our communities. It can be easy to lose trust within the community, as friends and neighbours can become enemies in times of crisis.

Of course, whenever a community is splintered in this way SEM and other organisations have to work doubly hard to restore stability, trust and cohesion in the area. When violence erupts, and people have to flee, our challenge to educate people and lift them out of poverty becomes even harder, but at the same time, even more crucial to their safety and livelihoods.

Happier times in South Sudan
Happier times in South Sudan

What next for South Sudan?

However, the situation in Mundri is now improving after the violent outbreak of July 2016. The population is slowly returning to their homes. We have seen the market and some shops opened, though goods are not many in the shops due to insecurity on the roads from Juba to Mundri and other areas, and also because of high market prices. We have also seen the schools in the town have re-opened and children going to schools. Lui hospital in Mundri East and the Primary Health Centre in Mundri town and health centres and units in outside locations are working but lacking adequate drugs.

We hope now that peace is here and we are working towards restoring relationships within the community that the shops will soon become well stocked and our health centre will soon get the supplies it needs. But this is a good example of how violence and uncertainty can lead to many, wider, long lasting problems we have to overcome together.

Though one can never know for sure what will happen, I really hope this latest outbreak will result in the government setting up serious processes to bring about peace in our country once and for all.

SEM work is continuing in the State despite the situation. The programme activities include; Functional adult literacy classes integrated with peace building, business skills- focusing on Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR)- focusing on people with disabilities and their families, eye health, and inclusive education- focusing on children with disabilities. We thank God that all our staff are safe, though faced the same challenges like other community members. Please continue to pray for the people of South Sudan, whom have been experiencing decades of violence.”

SEM (Sudan Evangelical Mission) works among the vulnerable, least served and the needy communities in South Sudan, to bring about a sustainable change in their lives. Feed the Minds has worked closely with SEM on literacy programmes. 

The staff at SEM maintain hope for a peaceful future.
The staff at SEM maintain hope for a peaceful future.