UNVs working to turn Doha Declaration into reality: An effort to strengthen civil society in Darfur
While seeking political means to put an end to violence in Darfur is paramount for UNAMID, the National Government and different partners in Sudan, Frank Adarkwah-Yiadom, from Ghana, and Aimee Mwenyi Ntumba, from Democratic Republic of Congo, have been paving the path to make Doha Declaration (Civil Society inputs into the peace agreements) a successful exercise to bring Darfuris closer to peace. Working in capacity building activities focused on women, this team has brought professionalism, experience and knowledge at the service of Darfuri communities.
As you enter the main conference room of University of Zalengei, full of Darfuri women sitting with their notebooks open and their pens ready, you can barely perceive that Aimee and Frank are running around getting everything ready for one of the more than 19 workshops they have organized and conducted to build the capacity of stakeholders in Zalingei during the past two years, and 20 civil society workshops to support mediation in the Doha Process in one year.
As happens when things are working well, everything looks effortless but, in fact, this UN Volunteers team has to plan, organize, and develop the presentations and facilitate the workshops. In short, “Aimee and I develop the proposals, organize, plan, develop presentations, and conduct every bit of the Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building training programmes in East-West Darfur”, explains Frank.
As the workshop moves forward, you realized that Aimee and Frank have the responsibility of not only taking care of planning and logistics for the event, but they also have to convey why is important that Civil Society from Darfur speaks up to stop the war. “We maintain regular contact and interact with local authorities, political and tribal leaders, civil society organizations, peaceful coexistence committees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to promote peace, conflict resolution, reconciliation, negotiation, mediation, effective leadership, good governance, and even the inclusive participation in dialogue, and to promote democracy as well. We also get information on their concerns and needs, their perception of peace process, and other issues related to our UNAMID’s mandate”, emphasizes Aimee.
Frank and Aimee with the participants of the workshop.
For the main objectives of these workshops, Frank and Aimee explain that “like any other conflict area, the civil society in Darfur believes that their role in the implementation of any peace agreements is paramount and that they have to voice out their concerns for consideration in the agreement […]. For example, in Zalingei area (West Darfur), the Commissioners in all the eight localities and the Native Administration (Traditional Leaders), with the support from UNAMID’s Civil Affairs Unit, have been able to form what is called Peaceful Coexistence Committees in the communities”, adds Frank to explain the outreach of the workshops.
Furthermore, these workshops are the key in changing the behavior of Zalengei’s Community, with a special focus on women. “To take necessary measures to train women as mediators to be involved in Darfur peace process, we have to advocate and empower them to champion their concerns at all levels, ensuring that their problems and priorities are reflected in the official agreements”. Also, Frank explains that these far Darfuri women have not joined the conflict as combatants; however, they do group themselves and using war and cultural songs whilst dancing to motivate and encourage the armed movements in the fight. “But the trend has changed now as they are gradually contributing prominently to the search for peace and to the peace process negotiations”.
Always showing an enthusiastic spirit and deep commitment to their work, Frank and Aimee talk about what they enjoy the most about being volunteers in Darfur: “I like the way the training/workshops change Darfuri (both men and women) ways of thinking (conflicting aspects of it) and their acceptance to get involved into the peace process. They are now able to volunteer for the promotion of peace in their areas”, says Aimee while Frank says that “building the confidence of the citizens and the capacity of the civil society in conflict management and offering them the support to reconciliation at the local level” are some of his greater rewards.
When it is time to close the workshop, Frank invites some women of the audience to share their story and their thoughts about the war. You can see hope in their eyes and also pain and tears. Frank thanks all attendants while Aimee meets with the community leaders to arrange transport for them. By the end of the day something good just happened in Darfur, thanks to Aimee and Frank.