back from the field

Posted by Judy McCallum at 3:26 AM
Saturday, September 1, 2007
well, I'm back in Juba now after a really good trip to the Nuba mountains, Abyei and Aweil.
I left Saturday August 11th for Kauda via Rumbek on a small cessna (I think). Kauda is in the Nuba Mountains, it was the SPLA stronghold during the war. Its a small, very spread out town. I traveled up with Alfred Kibunja and Peter Maruga, two Kenyan trainers who work with the Nairobi Peace Institute, our partner in the trainings. In Kauda we were met by Arnu, who is Pact's Community Development Officer based there.

We were suppose to fly via an UNMIS helicopter on Sunday to Kadugli, one of the main towns in the Nuba mountains which was under the Government of Sudan during the war. There are still no flights from southern Sudan to Kadugli - so you either have to fly to Khartoum and come back south, or get on the good side of UNMIS and get a ride in their helicopter. Well, at this point we were not in the good graces of UMMIS it seemed, or rather Alfred, Arnu and myself were not, Peter on the other hand somehow ended up on the manifest. So, we decided to drive with some of the participants for the training who were coming to Kadugli for the workshop.

Its actually not very far from Kauda to Kadugli as the crow flies - I think about 80 km. However, our vehicle is very old, and the roads are very very muddy, so it took us almost 11 hours to do the journey. Fortunately we were caravaning with NCA, who have a much better truck, as they had to pull us out of the mud 10 times, I do not exaggerate.

In Kadugli we were met by Dr. Ahmed Saeed, who is Pact's Program Manager for the "transitional areas" (these are the three areas that have special consideration in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement - as they are on the border, have considerable resources - including oil - and were one of the key areas of contestation during the peace talks). The transional areas are Southern Kordofan (which includes the Nuba Mountains), Abyei and Blue Nile. We were staying in a little guesthouse near the FAO offices, for those who have been to Kadugli, it was the old SLIRI office/guesthouse. You could tell that men ran the place because there were working satellite televisions and refridgerators in each room, but the bathrooms etc were dismal.

The Training workshop started on Monday, it was held in the State Legislative Assembly (very posh, nice swiveling chairs. There were about 27 participants - a very lively group. The Training was lots of fun, the first day we had a presentation on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by Dr. Ahmed, and then Arnu presented Pact's Conflict Threats Assessment report, and then the groups had discussion around what they percieved was working in the CPA, where there are challenges, and what they think needs doing.

The second day the Peter and Alfred started to train the participants on what Conflict is - that it is natural, normal and neutral using various interactive 'tools'. They also provided the participants with tools that help them to identify the various stages of conflict, what needs to be done at each stage, how to analyze confict and identify the root causes. The participants then did a conflict analysis of Kadugli and Kauda.

The third day focused on what is peace, and tools for building peace. Alfred has some really fun interactive games that also communicate peace concepts really clearly. On this day I was also invited to visit the home of one of the participants, Shadia, after the workshop. I had a nice visit although it was challenging with my lack of Arabic skills and her lack of English. But it was fun nevertheless.

The fourth day the participants worked in groups to develop action plans for addressing the conflict in their areas - and the fifth day we finalized the workplans, and then had the closing. It was Friday, which is their day off, so we only were there for the morning. Then we went with one of the participants to his home village and spent the afternoon there - it was beautiful and green.

We had Satruday off, and Sunday we actually got on the UNMIS manifest and flew by helicopter to Abyei, where we met up again with Dr. Ahmed, who had left on Thursday by road to set things up for the training. In Abyei we were staying at the SPLM guesthouse, and the training was at the UNDP training room. We had about 19 participants there. The program was much the same, but only 4 days this time.

On Friday, Alfred, Peter and I drove 2 hours south to Turalie, the closest functional airstrip, and caught a small plane to Rumbek for the weekend. Actually, our pilot was a learner, and let me tell you it was very obvious. Now I know why there are so many crashed planes around Southern Sudan! Anyways, we made it safe to Rumbek, unfortunately the pilots were staying at the same camp as us - so I was reminded of our scary take-off and landing each day we were there.

After a very relaxing, and fattening weekend in Rumbek (the camp had the most amazing food I've had in Sudan so far, but maybe this was because all we ate in Abyei was various forms of roasted meat, sheeps brain etc.).

On Monday we flew to Aweil, where we met up with Alfred Okech, Pact's Peace Technical Officer (he works with me primarily), plus Luka, our new Community Development Officer. Brian Doe, our Grants Officer also met up with us in Rumbek and traveled to Aweil with us. We were staying at the RCO compound in tents - was nice to put my old treeplanting tent back into use. The training started on Tuesday, same format. Brian and I were to fly back to Juba on Wednesday. well we waited at the airstrip from 8:50am to 4pm for the plane. We were told every once in a while that the plane was "coming in half an hour). We did leave at one point to go observe more of the workshop, but rushed back thinking our plane had come (it hadn't, it was a charter).

well, we only made it as far as Rumbek, stayed another night at the camp with the nice food :-) and then on thursday returned to Juba. I arrived just in time to attend our monthly coordination meeting with the Southern Sudan Peace Commission.

So, that was my trip. Lots of fun, some great pictures (some I'm uploading onto on Flickr: )



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