I’m writing this on a flight dodging its way through the rising tensions in the Mideast. The Emirates are pretty packed together so negotiating airspace is like squeezing a camel through a needle; but negotiating the rising tensions, far tougher.
I know, because I have just been immersed in peace negotiations between the government of South Sudan and the SPLA-In Opposition, or rebel groups. [Skip straight to the last few paragraphs if you are in a hurry.]
The Sudanese have been straining through tension for hundreds of years as control has come from a varied list of oppressors, from Sultans to the British. Winston Churchill arrived here with trunks filled with fine wine and a conviction that his future fame would start in Sudan.
Never colonized but never free, the people of the South resisted the rule of their Arab leaders in Khartoum and they fought for independence from 1955 till 2005. After the Comprehensive Peace Accord stopped the horrific carnage that only generations of fighting can produce, the Republic of South Sudan was birthed on July 9, 2011. The newest nation on earth was born without paved roads, few doctors or hospitals or schools and an illiteracy rate near 90 percent. This was true nation-building from the basics of water to the intricacies of government and laws.
Water is Basic has been there from the beginning, birthed at the grassroots level, guided by local experience, and implemented by men and women who get what it means to go thirsty.
While it’s never easy and always a challenge, we have seen more than 1,000,000 people gain access to clean water over the last decade, but we would never have guessed that water would lead to peace as well.
A declaration of independence is like so many things: just a part of the journey. What comes after can often be as intense and troubling as what came before. The same is true of South Sudan, where generals accustomed to bush fighting have been fighting it out for power and the heart of this young nation. The results have been devastating.
Our partner, Bishop Elias Taban, was born on the day hostilities started in May 1955 and has been in the middle, from child soldier to preacher, seeking peace for most of his life. Over the last month he and his wife Rev. AnneGrace of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church have been desperately holding together Yei River State as the frontline in the fight ran straight through it, seeking to split the state and the nation into millions of broken lives.
It is our long faithfulness to this country that gave us an influential place at the table in peace talks. The goal is grassroots dialogue and agreements that become a model and catalyst for the entire nation. On June 4th, 2017 a cessation of hostilities and peace was agreed to and signed in Kampala Uganda. Other states want in too as the suffering of all has leveled the playing field…desire for survival trumps war eventually. The rebel forces want water filters and working wells when they come out of the bush and we are working on it.
In Juba, I met again with what is essentially the Prime Minister of South Sudan, Hon. Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro. He reiterated again how important the history and presence of Water is Basic has been to this process. He invited me back to witness the welcoming of troops from the bush and to meet the President. A real honor for sure, but the truth is we only get to do what we do because of so many who stay in the game month after month, year after year with donations.
Your gifts have not only given water but they have actually stepped in with crucial funds for this process. Water is giving life, yes; water is basic, yes but now water is a peace builder too.
Now the real work starts…stay tuned for the ramping up of our work.
We are nation building together! Seriously.