JUBA, South Sudan — In a surprising twist, the power of drums takes center stage as a catalyst for peace in war-torn South Sudan.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is backing a community-led initiative aimed at restoring harmonious relations between the villages of Omoruo and Lohilai, with percussion instruments expected to play a pivotal role.
Bridging the Divide: From Music to Peace
The two communities, once coexisting without tensions, were struck by bouts of violence last December. Accusations of targeted killings and road ambushes fueled the conflict, resulting in strained relations.
The strife reached a distressing climax when 23 intricately crafted wooden drums owned by Omoruo musicians were reduced to ashes.
Now, through joint efforts to heal the divide, the tides seem to be turning, thanks in part to a musical peace offering presented by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division.
“We are experiencing real peace between our villages again, with women and men traveling to both areas without any problems or security issues.
Last week, they invited us for a traditional ceremony in Lohilai. This shows that we have finally achieved reconciliation,”
expressed Ikeye Ihiju, a women’s representative residing in Omoruo.
In a recent peace dialogue, facilitated by civil society organizations, local authorities, the church, and influential figures, an agreement was reached to compensate for damages caused during the conflict, including the drums.
Stepping up to aid the process, UNMISS peacekeepers provided an initial installment of eleven drums to the Omorou village, with the promise of delivering the remainder once a lasting peace is firmly established.
“We have handed over eleven drums to the Omorou village, with the rest to be delivered once we see those imaginary white flags of peace flap permanently in the wind. More peace, more music, you could say,”
explained Civil Affairs Officer Hercules Ayahu Abalu, serving with UNMISS.
Rebuilding Through Unity
According to Osman Anthony, a representative from the Lohilai community, the situation has improved significantly:
“We have returned to our usual state of peaceful relations. What happened between us is history; now we need to focus on rebuilding and developing our area.”
A testament to the prevailing goodwill between the two villages is the return of approximately 1,500 individuals, primarily women and children, who had previously fled the intense violence and have now reclaimed their homes.
The Melody of Hope
As the rhythmic beats of drums resonate through the communities, hope for lasting peace is rekindled.
This initiative exemplifies the power of music, demonstrating how instruments once associated with teenage love and angst can transcend their divisive connotations and become instruments of harmony.
In a world often defined by conflict, the drums in Omoruo and Lohilai herald a unique story of reconciliation, reminding us that peace can emerge from the most unexpected of sources.