A two-day consultative conference has resolved a long-standing inter-communal disagreement over the ownership of Wathmuok, a strategic piece of land that straddles the areas of Ajak and Kongdier in Aweil.
The dispute escalated into violence in mid-April this year, when the area government announced the establishment of the Ajak Centre County, with its headquarters in Wathmuok.
"If your father or chief asks you to go and fight in Wathmuok, let them go and fight alone," said Ajith Angony Angony, a youth representative from the contested area of Wathmouck. "As youth we are not ready to fight any more," she said, rejecting violence as a means of conflict resolution.
Apart from denouncing violence, the conference – which brought together the people of the Greater Paliet area that comprises the communities of Ajak, Kongdier and Bonchuai – also aimed to restore relationships between the two communities.
"I am here to say no return to violence," said Paramount Chief Garang Mayen Deng of the Kongdier community. "I will seek dialogue in any dispute between these communities," he said, while raising his hands as a show of respect and peace to the other community.
The conference, which drew 44 participants from the two communities, also explored ways of managing expectations.
"We resolve to unite as the people of Paliet," said an emotional fifty-year-old female participant, Mary Adut Chol, as she smiled following the reconciliation. "Today, our peace has returned. We shall now sleep, eat and stay together," she said.
"Go and tell your families that we have reconciled," said Paramount Chief Wol Wol of Ajak Section after shaking hands with his Kongdier counterpart.
The conference was facilitated and supported by the Civil affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as part of the Mission's efforts to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflicts in the country.
"We have made progress on three things," said the Acting UNMISS Head of Field Office in Aweil, Khalif Farah. "I think everybody is committed to join the peace and the reconciliation initiative; to resolve any future problems or issues, misunderstandings, conflict, through peaceful means. And you also committed to never go back to violence," said Farah.
The two communities agreed to accept previous recommendations made by a conflict resolution committee, established in July 2019 by the area governor.