Father Mark Kumbonyai is the chair of the Inter Church Peace Committee (ICC), based in Yambio, South Sudan. The Inter Church Peace Committee is a network of religious leaders in Western Equatorial State. Since 2012, Father Mark has worked with Conciliation Resources to support returnees from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The ICC holds workshops with returnees on trauma healing, and advocates at community, state, national and international levels on the issues of internally displaced people, refugees, and peaceful solutions to the conflict.
How would you describe the partnership you have with Conciliation Resources?
The partnership we have with Conciliation Resources has alway been ‘bottom-up’ - decisions are made at the grassroots level. It has never been a top-down system where they impose their views or decisions on us. We work together – we take the information from the ground to them, and we plan and we consult with them, and then we work on implementing the solutions together.
In a partnership, each side brings different things. What was it that you brought to the partnership, and what do you feel Conciliation Resources brought?
The ICC has brought to the partnership the knowledge and experiences of the community and the area. We have good knowledge of the local situation on the ground, and we have the contacts and the network within the community and the authorities.
We have good knowledge of the local situation on the ground, and we have the contacts and the network within the community and the authorities.
Conciliation Resources has brought capacity building to the partnership, as well as financial support. Before the partnership, we needed to improve our skills in project planning, reporting, and networking. We have also been able to increase the impact of our advocacy work with the help of the partnership, as we are now able to access different people at all different levels.
For example, Conciliation Resources helped us visit the UK, Belgium and France, to meet different people in these countries, and talk to them about the LRA in our regions. Without their help we could not have achieved that because we would not have the capacity and knowledge about advocacy and peacebuilding.
How has the partnership helped you to increase inclusion and bring in different voices to your work?
Before we got involved with Conciliation Resources we were doing our work by ourselves. Working together with Conciliation Resources they have helped us to see that in the area of peacebuilding, you need to involve many people and work together with them. We have now included so many people! It is now much easier for us to work together with different groups – the government authorities, the community, and the different groups like women and youth.
Conciliation Resources they have helped us to see that in the area of peacebuilding, you need to involve many people and work together with them
We also coordinate more across the region affected by the LRA, and work with other partners of Conciliation Resources. For example, together we created a newsletter where we could record all of the atrocities committed by the LRA across South Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. Most of the people in our region became aware of what the LRA were doing to the community because of what was being put in the ‘Voice of Peace’ newsletter.
What is different in the approach Conciliation Resources takes in its peacebuilding work, in comparison to other organisations?
Conciliation Resources is different, in that they build the capacity of the local community and the people on the ground. By enabling them to get involved and solve their own problems, they allow partners to lead from the front. Conciliation Resources are there supporting you from the back - they do not show off! Other organisations come and impose themselves on you.
Conciliation Resources makes you understand that you have a right to speak up, and help you to see that you have the ability to do this for your people and your community.