SONAD paves the way for reconciliation in Sudan

By Caroline Kyhlbäck (June 2007)

SONAD, Sudanese Organization for Nonviolence and Development, is a small Sudanese NGO promoting non-violent methods for conflict resolution. In late February 2007, SONAD organized the workshop ‘Exchanges on non-violence’ in Uppsala together with the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR). After the workshop, some members from SONAD paid a visit to the Nordic Africa Institute where they linked up with programme coordinator Cyril Obi. This meeting will hopefully result in a future collaboration between SONAD and the research programme ‘Post conflict transition in West Africa’.

In January 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Sudan, which marked the end of the devastating civil war in Southern Sudan that had lasted for more than twenty years. While the situation in Darfur remains an acute humanitarian crisis, Sudan is in different ways trying to implement the CPA and trying to secure stability in Southern Sudan. In 2011 a plebiscite will be held where the population of Southern Sudan will decide whether they will secede from Sudan and form their own independent state or if they will stay within the union of Sudan. But the road from the signing of an agreement to a durable peace is long and winding and when John Garang, the leader of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), died in July 2005 in a helicopter accident, the newly acquired stability was threatened. Garang had been instrumental in the peace negotiations and recently become the vice president in the interim government. After Garang’s death unrest erupted in different parts of the country, but the peace was fortunately not jeopardized.

At the fringe of the diplomatic negotiations, organizations like SONAD engage in different ways to help their country in the transition to a peaceful society. They organize trainings in non-violent conflict resolution, human rights workshops etc. aimed at the local communities in Sudan.  One of SONAD’s more recent activities has been to organize workshops where the CPA is presented and translated into local languages. In a country where the illiteracy rate is high, it becomes a major task to inform people about the agreement and how it will affect their lives. In the workshop people are informed about the implications the CPA will have for them and are also introduced to non-violent communication techniques. For those with reading skills, easily understood summaries are handed out to people in simple Arabic, which is the common language in the South, as well as in the local languages Dinka and Bari.

What makes the group from SONAD especially interesting is that they are a group which consist both of African Christians from the south and Arab Muslims from the north. Their common vision is a peaceful Sudan where people from different religions and ethnicities live side by side without animosity. Perhaps the most important work for SONAD is the everyday task of building trust and friendship between people who have been taught to regard each other with suspicion, which indeed is an example of practical peace building.

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