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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

What Happened at Wunlit? An oral history of the 1999 Wunlit peace conference

What Happened at Wunlit _ cover


Wunlit was the most successful peace meeting in the history of the Sudans, a meeting where customary authorities took a leading role. It brought together representatives of Nuer and Dinka communities west of the Nile, communities that had been divided by the 1991 split in the SPLA. The meeting acted as a prelude to the reunification of the SPLA and became the start of a process that led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and, eventually, to the independence of South Sudan in 2011. In the decade since then there has been a succession of failed peace agreements in South Sudan and a national dialogue with no clear outcome. This report is an account of the Wunlit meeting in the words of the original participants, conducted in the light of the continuing state of conflict in South Sudan and the relevance of the history of peace-making to the current political situation.

This report is the culmination of the South Sudan Customary Authori­ties Project, funded by the Swiss government. The goal of the project is to deepen understanding of customary authority in South Sudan, particularly the changes that have taken place over decades of conflict. To this end, the project engages chiefs and elders, and other commu­nity representatives—youth in particular—to discuss their role in peacebuilding and governance.

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