On June 4, 2017, a signed peace accord officially ended the armed conflict in Yei River State between warring factions – the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA - In Opposition (SPLA-IO) Yei River State. Mediated by Bishop Elias Taban, leader of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), the accord calls for a permanent ceasefire, an assembly area for armed rebels and their security, a planned national dialogue and the securing and opening of all roads to and out of Yei Town.
Previously spared from the most intense violence when civil war broke out in 2013, Yei had made considerable developmental progress since independence. However, it became a hot spot in July 2016 after opposition leader Riek Machar's departure from Juba. As a result, more than 10,000 Yei residents fled to refugee camps in neighboring Uganda, NGOs evacuated personnel and an estimated 100,000 residents have been stranded with food in short supply and no means of escape (UNHCR).
GRASSROOTS PEACEMAKING AND BISHOP ELIAS TABAN
Founded by Bishop Taban, a native of Yei and recipient of the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Global Citizen Award, EPC pursues a faith-based and locally-driven development model spanning multiple impact areas: clean water, healthcare, education and infrastructure. Throughout the intense fighting, EPC continued to restore water wells and operate one of the only health centers in Yei with an entirely South Sudanese staff.
Committed to ending the ongoing suffering of people in the country and in refugee camps, Bishop Taban, with support from the US-based His Voice Global, B.A.S.I.C Ministries, IMPACT AO and Water is Basic, successfully brokered an agreement to bring peace and stability back to Yei River State and, in doing so, demonstrated the model for a grassroots “bottom up” peace approach now serving as a catalyst for the entire nation. President Salva Kiir has requested this grassroots model be taken to all 32 states in South Sudan, beginning in Torit and Boma. Bishop Taban has gained significant influence with all parties involved and serves a valuable and particular role because the church is viewed as a neutral party.
The first priority is the successful staging and reintegration of former opposition (SPLA-IO) forces into the local community and SPLA government forces. EPC and its partners are responsible for overall monitoring of the implementation of the Yei River peace agreement and the successful implementation and management of Pre-Assembly Areas and the Morobo Assembly points in Yei River State. This includes registration and screening, supply provisioning and inspection, and vocational screening, training and logistical support.
Initial negotiations are ongoing in Maridi and Gogrial. Each follows the same grassroots process from grievances to assembly to peace.