On 22 June 2016, HDC attended a book launch - an instance of the Rift Valley Forum for Research, Policy and Local Knowledge in Nairobi. The event, organised by the Rift Valley Institute with the support of Norwegian aid and development agencies, launched Reconciliation in the Sudans, by Stein Erik Horjen. The event, which was held at Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations, featured a discussion of the book and its explication of the peace process from an alternative perspective - that of the church and grassroots civi society.
Horjen's book describes how a complimentary peace process ran alongside the main one dominated by armed forces and international mediators, both from the West and from neighbouring East African countries. It describes how Sudanese churches were instrumental in preparing the ground for the peace agreement, just as they had been in the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement.
It describes the churches as taking up the plight of the voiceless, challenging the military and political leaders and their abuse of power, and supporting a grassroots ‘People to People’ peace process, that helped ensure the success of the peace talks. Researchers and peace workers in South Sudan will no doubt know about the People to People peace process, but Horjen's book gives them the close-up perspective of a peacemaker who was involved in both aspects of the peace process. This unique perspective allows Horjen to describe the interplay between the two processes, and the unique conditions, key persons, relationships and resources that delivered success, or ended in failure.
Horjen's book is useful for present day peacebuilding work. Organisations like HDC that want to conduct peace work that goes beyond the political conflict at the national, elite level, and to focus on the factors/ root causes that lead to sustained local conflict will find this book a useful contribution. It explains the role of civil society actors like the church and customary authorities in grounding the peace in local cultural and social forms, and ensuring that reconciliation is binding, i.e. both genuine and long-lasting.
Horjen argues, for example, that the absence of reconciliation mechanisms within the CPA explains why South Sudan's conflict erupted in 2013, and holds out hope that learning from this past will help to make the case for difficult, but vital reconciliation efforts that go down to the local level. The book offers us a glimpse back in time, in the hope that we may use it to go forward.
Contents: Translator’s Note – Sunday Morning in the Cathedral – The People Along the Nile – The War No One Would Win – Religion in Conflict – Interfaith Dialogue – Suffering and God – Sudanese Christianity Since the Time of the Apostles – Peace in Addis – A People Divided by War – Peace Initiatives – One Voice – Kejiko – Wunlit – New Power Struggle in the SPLM/A – Kisumu – Sudan Ecumenical Forum – Let My People Choose! – Entebbe Talks – Comprehensive Peace Processes? – Methods – Back in Juba – The Long Road to Peace.