• Slideshow Banner4 WHAT we do

by Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya, Program Manager in South Sudan

My teammates Kerrin, Peter and I sat down on the balcony of the guesthouse. Our view was a pile of cars that had been destroyed during the recent violence in Mundri, South Sudan. In the back­ground, I could hear the news from the TV room and occasionally the loud clanking of the power generator would drown out the anchor. I checked my watch; it was still too early to call home. On this night, I especially missed my family. The recent escalation of violence had displaced hundreds of people, destroyed homes and torn families apart. I was tired and unmotivated when I thought about the scourge of violence upon innocent civilians. It made being away from home harder than usual.

Right before the end of the news, I dashed down to the TV room to hear the news anchor wrap up with the daily updates. The headlines were the usual—U.S. elections, the Syrian war and the migrant camps in the UK. There was no mention of South Sudan. Not even a brief update. Frustrated, I headed towards bed.

Reflecting on success

To ease my mind, I began thinking of the small successes that my team and I had earlier in the day. Someone in the morning told me, “There are more students going to school today. This is good!” In the afternoon, a businessman told me, “Your presence has been felt and it is important you came. There are now three more shops.” While doing our patrols we were told that the shops were staying open later and more civilians were moving in and out of town.

I smiled to myself. These are small but encour­aging achievements. It felt good to know people felt safe enough to go about their daily activities partly because of our efforts. I have faith that NP’s presence makes a difference. I believe it has built confidence and safety for civilians. Their comments and hopes are my inspiration for a better tomorrow.

I got into bed and tried to fall asleep, I rolled around to change sides. I rolled again and again. Several thoughts raced around in my head about the previous days and what we have to accomplish. I wondered how much longer it would be before I fell asleep. I thought about the recent violence and how we could best help to mitigate the conflict and protect civilians.

I checked the time—almost midnight.

Getting a head start

Unable to sleep, I got up and prepared some work for the next day. By the time I felt tired enough to sleep, I had written my speech for the inter-religious women peace rally. I checked my to-do list. Tomorrow, my team would be going into a controversial area with strictly limited access to participate in a humanitarian assessment. I also had to write an appointment letter to see the Army General so that we could introduce our work, our projects and negotiate access. I needed to clarify what NP stands for. But I decided to save that for the morning and went back to bed.

As I lay there, I could hear the night’s silence broken by insects outside. The generators had turned off a long time ago. From the room next door, I could hear my neighbors snoring and enjoying their sleep. Even my favorite neighbor’s dog howled late into the night. Although, it would be easy to be jealous of my sleeping neighbor, and the chaos outside was disturbing, my reflections from the day comforted me. It felt good to contribute to creating a safe space where people could continue living their lives with hope and dignity.

 

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT PEACEKEEPER HOPE TICHAENZANA CHICHAYA

Hope has been with NP working in South Sudan since 2013 and is now serving as Program Manager. He holds masters degrees in both Business Administration and Peace Studies & International Affairs. Currently, he is in Bangkok, Thailand where he is further developing his skills as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

My hero is my late dad, Abisha Tafireshango Dhliwayo. He taught me gender equality, nonviolence, and introduced to me the concept and practice of ‘servanthood leadership’.

What inspires me in protecting civilians is that I be­lieve in ‘serving’ towards something bigger than me.

What I encourage in others is to believe in and support the effectiveness and efficiency of unarmed civilian protection in situations of violent conflict. More than ever, investment in this concept and practice is needed.

A book I would recommend reading The Moral Imagina­tion: The Art and Soul of Building Peace by John Paul Lederach.

In my spare time I enjoy cooking, socializing, dancing and spending time with my family.

Something else about me I want to contribute towards peaceful co-existence in the world. I believe ‘in all things to love and to serve.’ There is a better alterna­tive to violence and that is nonviolence.

Women peacekeepers in South Sudan with MelBy Mel Duncan, Co-Founder and Director of Advocacy and Outreach

I have just returned from South Sudan. I am heartbroken and inspired. Adequate adjectives escape me. In such extremes, words can lose their meaning. How easily terms like famine, gender based violence, internally displaced, etc. can become abstractions even for the most compassionate of us. I was overwhelmed with anger as I stood with people in the dust, heat, and destruction while armed men lurked close by. Yet, even in those conditions, I saw glimmers of resilience forming into action. For example, I sat in a hot, dark hut with 100 women, most of whom are rape survivors, as they talked about preventing children from becoming soldiers, intervening when violence flares and organizing rallies to bring opposing clans together. They told me about transporting a rape survivor in a wheelbarrow to a medical clinic. Even with limited resources, these women tirelessly work to protect themselves and others. They want a voice at the peace talks! Seldom have I felt such energy and spirit!

NP’s teams are training and supporting these women peacekeepers  ̶  close to a thousand at work in five locations. Regardless of how bleak the prognosis, we will align with those who without particular power or skill are nonviolently changing the world. The lead article in Sunday’s New York Times, War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart illustrates the horror in places like Bentiu  ̶  where we have a team of 21 civilian protectors. Amid the Times’ stories of murder, starvation and gang rape they neglect to tell about these remarkable women who have stepped through the brutality and are working to protect themselves and others. These women not only represent a personal resilience but more importantly, they embody the deepest strength of the human spirit.

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”

― Adrienne Rich

By Derek Oakley, Project Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce in the Middle East

“Until now I was without hope. This training has given me hope.”

Simple but powerful words from *Omar. NP has organized intensive workshops in the Middle East to identify civilian efforts to help communities feel and be safer. Theirs are the stories that the world rarely sees or hears about, civilians that dedicate their time and energy for one another. They provide services such as basic health care and crèches (day centers) for children to escape from the stresses of the war. Others provide psycho-social support and legal advice to victims of domestic violence, which often increases in times of war.

However, even for the most dedicated, this vital work can take its toll, emotionally and physically. There are many, like Omar, who have been exposed to constant insecurity and violence for half a decade. After such a long period, one’s belief in the value, worth and efficacy of peace efforts may begin to falter. Nonviolent Peaceforce provides time and space for people like Omar so he can return to his community rejuvenated and energized to carry on his vital work in the midst of war.

Read more: Bringing Hope to the Middle East

Shan State, Myanmar.

A few days before December 25th, violence broke out between two ethnic armed groups in the Northern part of Shan State. A girl from a local village was killed and three other civilians were injured during the conflict. Civilian monitors, trained by Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and supported by local partner Shalom (Nyein) Foundation, responded to prevent further casualties. (Photo: Nonviolent Peaceforce trains a group of local monitors in Myanmar)

The monitors engaged both armed groups and negotiated a three-hour ceasefire to evacuate 300 civilians caught in the crossfire. They worked with community leaders from a local township, who lent them a few trucks to transport the civilians to a safe area. The monitors referred the injured civilians to local community based organisations, who ensured medical treatment. Approximately, 1,150 civilians have been displaced during these clashes and are taking shelter in monasteries and houses of relatives. During the clashes, clinics, farming equipment and civilian houses were destroyed.

Read more: Civilian monitors evacuate 300 civilians

In July 2016, the capital airport in South Sudan was targeted during an outbreak of violence. An internally displaced persons camp was temporarily erected in an adjacent location. More than 3500 civilians took shelter at the camp between July and September. Nonviolent Peaceforce regularly patrolled the camp to prevent violence against civilians.

On September 15th, Nonviolent Peaceforce was patrolling the camp, when we were approached by a Nuer man, John.* John was towing a 10-year-old boy who he had found with a group of Nuer children. The children were trying to get him to play but he was unresponsive. Sensing something was wrong, John tried greeting the boy in his native language. Getting no reply, he tried greeting the boy in Dinka and the boy immediately responded.

John realized the boy was in danger as minority Dinka amongst a large Nuer population. Tensions between Dinka and Nuer were extremely high in the capital, after fighting in July killed hundreds of civilians within days. Being a child does not exclude one from being the victim of brutal targeted violence. During South Sudan's civil war, UNICEF has reported boys being castrated and left to bleed to death, girls as young as eight being raped and murdered and children being thrown into burning buildings.

Read more: Lost Boy Brings Unity to Community in South Sudan

Until now I was without hope. This training has given me hope.

Simple but powerful words from *Omar, a participant in one of NP’s intensive workshops in the Middle East to identify civilian efforts to help communities feel and be safer. These are the stories that the world rarely sees or hears about, civilians that dedicate their time and energy to promote nonviolence. They provide services such as basic health care and crèches (day care) for children to escape from the stresses of war. Others provide psycho-social support and legal advice to victims of domestic violence, which often increase in times of war.

However, even for the most dedicated, this vital work can take its toll, emotionally and physically. There are many, like Omar, who have been exposed to constant insecurity and violence for half a decade. After such a long period, one’s belief in the value, worth and efficacy of his or her efforts may begin to falter. Nonviolent Peaceforce believes that these heroes deserve better support that enables them to carry on. NP is providing that support.

Read more: Bringing Hope to the Middle East

By Jiro O'Kada, International Protection Officer for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan.

The current chapter of my life in South Sudan began with the Nonviolent Peaceforce’s global partnership, a precursor to the current NP Alliance, which connected me through a member group in Japan.
I found an internship opportunity with NP headquarters in Brussels in 2012 through one of NP’s member organizations* in Japan. Before joining the team I had an opportunity to visit Nonviolent Peaceforce’s program in South Sudan, where I learned the practice of unarmed civilian protection (UCP) in the field. This experience provided me with valuable exposure to the many dedicated individuals who are striving for peace.

After this trip, I joined the program management team in Brussels, which supports the operation of country programs worldwide. As a program assistant intern, I learned about NP’s global-scale humanitarian mission first-hand by assisting in tasks such as field to headquarters communication, grant management, and training development for new field staff.

Read more: From Intern to Peacekeeper

As many of you will be seeing in the media, the conflict in South Sudan has once again escalated.

While some call what is happening now in Juba a return to war, what we know from being on the ground is that the violence of war that began in December 2013 has been ongoing. The fight for control, despite the signing of cease fires and peace agreements, has been fought in remote jungles and swamps throughout the young country. For the last few days, the nation’s capital, Juba, has been buffeted by extraordinary violence where the range of stakeholders, party to the peace process, have been engaging in a sustained battle for control of the city.

Read more: South Sudan update: in the face of danger

"The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro raised the hopes and expectations of the Bangsamoro people who had grown so tired of war."

Two years ago, the government of the Philippines signed an agreement allowing for an autonomous Muslim state in Mindanao, the Philippines’ southern-most island. This hard-won victory came after decades of civil war and years of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the group seeking autonomy for the Bangsamoro. This agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, raised the hopes and expectations of the Bangsamoro people who had grown so tired of war. The agreement was meant to be a stepping stone towards the creation of a new independent Muslim state and a historic step to finally bring to an end the political violence in Mindanao.

But the creation of the new state stalled in 2015. Without the establishment of a new Bangsamoro government, no one could run in this year’s upcoming elections. The Bangsamoro Government was supposed to be asymmetrical to the central government and to include recognition of a separate Bangsamoro identity with their own justice institutions and comprehensive governing framework. This would have guaranteed basic rights including government representation, the right of women to participate in the political process, and to protection from all forms of violence.

Read more: The State of Peace in Mindanao