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South Sudanese women push for a place at the negotiation table

Akim Mugisa
South Sudanese women’s groups say they face the brunt of the armed conflict and demand representation in what they describe as “tortoise pace” negotiations.
20.01.2014  |  Yei
Women attending a rally for peace in Yei, January 16.
Women attending a rally for peace in Yei, January 16.

We want women representatives in the negotiations,” says Mama Sarah Natalino, head of the County Women Association in Yei, urging a swift resolution to the talks which seek to end a month of bloodshed and political upheaval in the young state. We are one nation, one people who should not be enemies of each other. Let us remember the joy of the referendum and declaration of our independence and understand that the situation of today is not taking us anywhere positive.”

We are one nation, one people who should not be enemies of each other.”
Mama Sarah Natalino
Negotiations kicked off three weeks ago between teams representing the rebel leader former vice-President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, but Natalino complained that while the talks drag on, women, children and men are being killed.

The death toll is estimated to run into several thousands since violence spiralled from December 15, 2013. A lack of access to conflict hotspots, however, makes the extent of the tragedy hard to gauge.

Grace Kadayi, Director of Widows, Orphans and People Living with HIV/Aids (WOPHA), on Thursday took part in a procession to condemn the ongoing armed conflict between rebel forces and government troops in various fronts in Bor, Malakal and Bentiu.

We held this demonstration to call upon our leaders to make sure the war stops quickly. We don’t want war anymore,” Kadayi said with tears in her eyes. Women are the most affected, she said, adding that they had to carry” the whole house on their heads, backs and stomachs -- while men only carry guns.

Kadayi said she does not know who started the current war, but urged Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir to embrace democracy.

The demonstration delivered a petition to Yei Municipality Mayor, Cicilia Oba and County Commissioner David Juma Augustine, who took it on behalf of the government.

Also watch:
‘Peace is what we want’
by Ochan Hannington | in Society | 17.01.2014
In its petition, Yei Civil Society Organisations Forum called for an immediate end to killings and swift negotiations without preconditions. It also urged humanitarian agencies to increase support to internally displaced persons fleeing military confrontations.

At the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), Bishop Hillary Adeba Luate expressed solidarity with the civil society in calling for an end to the war that has so far claimed many lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Mawa George Lazarus, Vice Chairperson of Yei Civil Society Organisations Forum, the group which organised the demonstration said she was unhappy with the pace of the talks, currently being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

I have been critically following the negotiations. The process is too slow,” she said. IGAD and the National Legislative Assembly comprised of representatives of the citizens should exert more pressure on the parties.”