After a 20-year separatist war against the Sudanese government and a popular referendum, South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9, 2011. The civil war had killed more than 2.5 million people and displaced more than twice as many; serious challenges remained for people in the word's newest nation. Tragically, in December 2013, a power struggle emerged between the president of the new country of South Sudan and his top deputy. This has deteriorated into a South Sudanese civil war that has ethnic groups pitted against each other and massive suffering of the population on all sides. The people of South Sudan have experienced violent conflict for more than 50 years; generations have grown up knowing nothing but war. The war since 2013 has displaced more than 1.5 million people and has become characterized by sadistic human rights abuses. The UN estimates that 16,000 child soldiers are now part of the fight, as armed groups actively recruit vulnerable youth and use them to commit new atrocities.
Trauma-Informed Peacebuilding (2015-2016)
As part of a Trauma Informed Peacebuilding initiative developed by Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBB), we worked closely with displaced women and youth to begin to create a curriculum for understanding and coping with trauma within the context of the ongoing armed violence. Sharing this knowledge and skill creates a leadership role for these less powerful community members, as they model healing and violence prevention and guide their communities toward this growth.
The people of South Sudan have experienced violent conflict for more than 50 years; generations have grown up knowing nothing but war. Violence begets violence: youth are left to ruminate about the horrors they have seen, and feel pressured to act in defense of their families and communities. The UN estimates that 16,000 child soldiers are now part of the fight, as armed groups actively recruit vulnerable youth and use them to commit new atrocities.
By intervening among these youth and their families, the Mediators Beyond Borders-led partnership worked to derail this cycle of violence. Our other partners in this work included Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (a South Sudanese organization), and Nonviolent Peaceforce. Unfortunately, escalating armed conflict in the areas in which we worked made it necessary to suspend this particular project and put Karuna Center's part on hold--though in this case our partners were able to maintain other peacebuilding initiatives that could help during active violence.
Supporting South Sudanese and Sudanese Women Leaders
Karuna Center's 2011-2012 work in South Sudan focused on issues of women's rights in the context of South Sudan's secession from the nation. Our role was to support a coalition of women leaders from North and South Sudan, who had been brought together by the Institute for Inclusive Security and been meeting since 2006. Through all the years of civil war in Sudan, these women offered support to each other and shared advocacy for women throughout what is now Sudan and South Sudan.
In April 2011, Karuna Center’s founder, Paula Green, was invited to facilitate a plan for the future of this Sudanese women’s coalition given South Sudan's approaching independence. In 2012, Karuna Center and Inclusive Security followed up with seminars for each side of the coalition separately, including one in Juba for South Sudanese women, with a focus on increasing the capacity of each group of women leaders within their newly divided countries. We brought a peacebuilding lens to skill-building workshops ranging from strategic planning and coalition-building to dialogue skills, group facilitation techniques, managing conflict successfully, and reconciliation/forgiveness.