Classrooms promote peace in Sudan

UNDP is improving literacy rates by building schools and training teachers in some of the most remote areas of Sudan. Photo: Jaime Jacques/UNDP
A UNDP-supported scheme in Sudan is helping conflict-affected children go back to school while providing support to ex-combatants as they take steps to rebuild their lives. Photo: Jaime Jacques/UNDP

In Mazmoom in Sennar State, the atmosphere remains tense, but things are gradually improving. The normally quiet village in the south-east corner of Sudan was the scene of conflict in 2012. More than 3,800 returnee Sudanese, including some 1,800 ex-fighters, are trying to establish new homes and farms in the small community. Many of the new farmers left grazing land in the south and escaped across the border when South Sudan officially declared independence in July 2011.

The increase in population in Mazmoom had its old residents worried, with many in the community fearful that the new arrivals might stretch local resources. This caused some clashes between long-time villagers and new arrivals, which was bound to incite further disputes.   

Highlights

  • The project is part of a UNDP US$75 million portfolio of disarmament activities, under the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme.
  • As well as building the school in Mazmoom, UNDP and its partner NGO have embarked on a 6-month, US$ 53,000 project to provide a forum for those in conflict to resolve their differences.
  • Activities include literacy classes for youth and women, training for local teachers, as well as civic education on conflict resolution and peace building, and awareness-raising on the dangers of small arms and light weapons.

To address this source of potential conflict, UNDP helped villagers construct and furnish a US$ 120,000 primary school and community centre. About 300 students, both returnees and existing community members, have been taking lessons at the school. The buildings also serve as a venue for teacher training as well as a space to provide math and reading lessons for local women. More than 2,000 members of the community have made use of the facility so far.

Besides providing valuable schooling in the district, the school is proving central to efforts to defuse the tense situation and peacefully reintegrate the returnees into the community.

Local NGO Elnasaiem was given UNDP funding, training and advice in order to establish a community security and arms control (CSAC) committee. The committee is using the new school to teach night classes about security; the dangers of small arms and light weapons; alternatives to gun violence; conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

“Membership of returnees in the CSAC committee includes both women and men. Both are energetically participating in community related issues,” says Nour Altahir, the head of the CSAC committee, “Now, the community in Mazmoom is enjoying social coexistence and harmony in life.”

These project activities are central to UNDP’s disarmament programme in Sudan. As well as building the school, UNDP and Elnasaiem have embarked on a 6-month, US$ 53,000 project to provide a forum for those in conflict to resolve their differences, as well as liaise with the government on issues regarding access to basic services and other measures necessary to accommodate the returnees from South Sudan. Common issues resolved through the forum include conflict over land allocation and conflicts between farmers and animal herders.

“We were able to talk to the government on the community’s behalf,” says 60-year-old Ahmed, who used the forum recently to resolve a conflict with a neighbour. ”We have been able to explain the security situation for our returnees from South Sudan. In order to mitigate possible conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, the state government responded to the security committee - allocating both animal routes and land to the returnees from South Sudan.”

The project received support from the governments of Japan and Norway and is part of a UNDP US$75 million portfolio of disarmament activities, under the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme. The Government of Sudan contributed land and staff for the community centre and school. The CSAC committee is currently collecting contributions from community members to construct more classrooms, as more returnees have arrived in Mazmoom.

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