What peace means to South Sudan

For Nyambon, peace means having a choice. “Peace is about freedom of life. I want the freedom to choose my future. I want to go to school, and choose what to study. Peace to me is having enough freedom to do that.” Photo: Ashlee Hammer/Oxfam
For Nyambon, peace means having a choice. “Peace is about freedom of life. I want the freedom to choose my future. I want to go to school, and choose what to study. Peace to me is having enough freedom to do that.” Photo: Ashlee Hammer/Oxfam

South Sudan, 5 years after becoming independent, is facing an acute humanitarian crisis due to an ongoing conflict, with millions of people displaced and severely food insecure. Aid is making a difference, but the only way to address this crisis is to end the violence and secure durable peace.

Peace means different things across the vast country of South Sudan. To some, it might mean a signed peace agreement, but to others, it means so much more. Oxfam asked people across the country what peace means to them, hoping to shed light on the gaps created by the conflict and why peace is key to addressing them.

This is what some of them had to say.

Peter and son Andrew: #peacemeans a better future

For Peter and son Andrew, peace in South Sudan means a better future.

Peter is Andrew’s father. His mother was killed in August 2015 when fighting broke out in Bentiu. Andrew was a month old when it happened. He grabbed his son, leaving his wife’s body, to seek safety in Nyal. Andrew is now ten months old and thriving in his father’s care.

“In the future, when my son is a man and changing the world, no one will know that he grew up without a mother. I am both his mother and his father. I want him to know that he always has someone and that his life is important.”

“If my child grows up in a time where he can wake up, go to school and be a better person than me, then I will know that there is peace.”

Photo: Ashlee Hammer/Oxfam

Monica: #peacemeans no gunshots

For Monica, peace in South Sudan means no gunshots.

Monica has not been home in Malakal for almost two years. She has not seen or spoken to two of her four children during this time. Monica and the rest of her family are among the few who fled when conflict erupted in South Sudan, forced to leave their children in the chaos and confusion.

“I want to go home and find my children, because I cannot sleep not knowing how they are. I hope for peace so that everyone is able to go back home, and one night can pass without the sound of a gunshot,” she says.

“I am a strong woman. I am used to work and take care of my family. What I want most is to be able to do that again.”

Photo: Stella Madete/Oxfam

Isaac: #peacemeans co-existence

For Isaac, peace in South Sudan means co-existence.

“People have always supported each other in time of war, because that is what we have been living with for a long time, but it has come to a time when we must support each other towards peace. We have to push each other with the same strength and the same songs, towards peace. It is all connected. We are all connected.”

“Peace does not exclude or segregate as everyone needs to be empowered and motivated to continue to act. We cannot have peace in isolation – we need to involve our neighbors for our vision of stability to be realized in all corners.”

“We need to encourage dialogue between different communities, so that they see people from different places and understand each other, and see the benefit of living together peacefully.”

Photo: Stella Madete/Oxfam

Kelelia: #peacemeans pride

For Kelelia, peace in South Sudan means pride.

“We used to live very freely in our village. We could walk to the bush and collect wild yams and cultivate peacefully. We were happy; no one was interfering in our lives. We’re now intimidated and we can’t move. “

“I am a farmer and proud of it. In my farm I grew sorghum, millet, groundnuts, cassava, okra, simsim, tomatoes and green vegetables (kudra). I also kept chickens and slowly introduced sheep and goats. All that is gone now.”

“ We were feeding the people of Wau. It pains us not to afford food because we know we have it. The cost of food has increased because our crops were destroyed, not because no one is farming.”

Photo: Stella Madete/Oxfam

Sultan: #peacemeans harmony

For Sultan, peace in South Sudan means harmony.

Sultan, a father of seven, is the chief of Muor Anyar village. He is responsible for the community members who entrusted him with their protection, but feels helpless in the midst of the fighting and displacement. For Sultan, an end to violence and access to land is the only route to peace.

“We have survived as communities because we work hard on our land and are able to feed ourselves and live peacefully. We have not felt the presence of a government until now, when the fighting destroys everything we have worked for and forces us from our homes. We no longer have rights.”

“Peace means going back home to live freely without interference from anyone. It means no fighting, no killing, no looting and no fear. It means harmony.”

Photo: Stella Madete/Oxfam

You can help

Millions of people in South Sudan remain in desperate need for food, clean water, health care, sanitation, shelter and protection. Across the country, Oxfam is providing humanitarian aid to nearly 860.000 conflict-affected people. With your help we can reach more with vital assistance.

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