Located on the shores of the River Nile, Terekeka was the venue for a meeting that would not have been possible just over six months ago.
“Today is a blessed day. A day to welcome our brothers and sons back home. A day to reconcile for unity,” said mother-of-five, Mary Juan, who lost her husband in the war that was raging in South Sudan for nearly five years.
Mary had walked four hours to reach the venue of the meeting.
“We shall gain back our freedom of movement to make our ends meet,” she said.
Facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the event brought together government and opposition (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition) to find ways to restore durable peace and stability to the area.
Shops were closed as all roads led to the main venue where people gathered under tree shades, singing, drumming and dancing.
The area has been devastated by the civil war that erupted in 2013, and its inhabitants are tired and hankering after peace, so normalcy can be restored.
“We can’t be rescued, especially with the poor health facilities we have. You have to send someone on a motorcycle or bicycle, our roads are bad, no telecommunication network,” said Anjilo Zachariah, the chief of Tindilo county.
According to Martin Luko, 27, who hails from Muni county on the western side of Terekeka, the gathering was a unique step towards a durable peace.
“The rainy season is here, we shall have no fear to go and cultivate our farms,” Martin Luko said, hoping peace will be achieved. “Even our brothers and sisters who ran for their lives to Juba, will return as hopes for school are clear,” he added.
76 separate rapprochements like this have taken place across South Sudan in view of implementing the revitalized peace agreement, signed in Addis Ababa in September last year.
“We can start working together as South Sudanese to implement the peace agreement so the young generation can enjoy its fruits,” said Jacob Gore Samuel, the area governor, applauding the opposition group’s acceptance of his invitation.
“This is a time for us to build confidence, come together as one family, and say, ‘enough is enough’ and work towards a lasting peace,” declared Peter Wani Kulang, the governor of Central Equatoria.
UNMISS and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) were represented at the event, as part of efforts to see that sincere harmony is reached through building trust.
“The mission will continue supporting this initiative with whatever resources it has, to see that the people of South Sudan achieve peace,” said Victor Fasama, UNMISS Civil Affairs team leader, emphasising the UN peacekeeping mission’s role of bringing together the parties.