South Sudan 2023


NVC Workshop South Sudan
Juba, 15th – 22nd April 2023

In April 2023, I offered a NVC workshop in Juba, invited by the Swiss consulate of South Sudan. First for the staff of the consulate, and in the second part for different NGOs working all over South Sudan: UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), Red Cross, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Nonviolent Peace Force Plan International, Peace Canal, Care, Peace and Development, Whitaker Initiative, Church, and more — so many organizations which include the words “peace” or “nonviolent” in their name, yet never heard about NVC. I am very astonished, because for me the basis, the needs, are missing.

NVC was new to all participants.

We started the workshop with the four-corner game, and participants walked around before they even got a seat, right at the beginning. After a while everybody started laughing. Any possible tension was gone. No lines of chairs, no screen, just an activity — light and easy, for everyone to cope with.

Then, people were asked to introduce themselves and to complete a half sentence, like:
“If I was president of this country, I would …” Answers were almost similar: take care of the security of my country, improve the economic situation, raise the level of education, move freely. They introduced themselves as sisters and brothers, no matter of the hierachical level of their profession.

Remarkable to me:
Even to our workshop the national security sent one man to attend, without announcing it beforehand. Only with the power of the Swiss consulate and an one hour talk we could avoid his presence (protection of autonomy and privacy of all, staff and participants!).
One participant avoided talking about his experiences even in our circle. He was afraid of any later repression.

Shared situations in the participants’ lifes:

  • A 12-year-old boy was forced by soldiers to eat five cups of raw beans mixed with soil.
  • Young girls were arrested for three days over Christmas with no food and a fine afterwards for wearing trousers.
  • A young man took up the voice of these girls, in their respective communities, and was subsequently arrested.
  • In South Sudan the practice of blood compensation got replaced by child compensation: if a member of family A is killed by a member of family B, someone from B has to give a child to A. Not blood (killing) or money is exchanged, they take a child. “And this child is supposed to be raised in obedience, beaten, raped, used as a servant.”
  • Child marriages are very usual, especially in the rural areas.
  • One girl refused to be married, thus they took her into the forest and blinded her by gouging her eyes. She is now safe in a hospital in Juba.

I ask two of my ”Ruhpolding family“ members for this training to assist: Mubarak Alhassan from Ghana and Joseph Bazirake from Uganda confirmed spontaneously, and lead different sessions on their own with enthusiasm. Mubarak stated that he never had a chance like this, and both said that this togetherness and our exchange helped them to gain more learning insights and a lot of self-esteem.

I thank Puddle dancer for their support in e-books. So, participants could prepare and rework. Some ask for more literature in NVC.

Feedbacks of the participants:

  • “I wish I had this training ten years before. I would have changed the quarrel of South Sudan youth who are killing eachother without knowing there is a way they could solve their ways peacefully.”
  • “I have consulted many books to improve my communication skills, but none had influenced and impacted my communication like this NVC training, bravo!”
  • “High level to have learned: patience, humility, and self-confidence like in no other place before.”
  • “Need is not an English word anymore; it has a deep meaning to me.”
  • “If all of us would know NVC, we would not have a problem in this country.”
  • “I feel empowered by this fundamental knowledge.”
  • “NVC was not presented, we played it, lived it for this short periode of time, even in our use of the mobile phones during the session.”
  • “What I learned is a way of life, NVC can create a safe space for everyone.”
  • “I am very grateful, for the three joyful days we spent together. Even more important, I came and got connected to so many faces across South Sudan. Mrs. Gitta, Mr. Joe and Mr. Mubarak, I am really excited! And this is just a beginning. Gitta, thank you for all the massive work you did, especially the way all the exercises and training procedures, including materials, were kept simple and quick to learn from. I wish you all the best and hope to meet again!”

The most exciting feedback to me was: At the beginning half of the participants planned to skip the last day, because it was an official holiday. At the end, all participated except two who were in the field. I celebrate the power of NVC in our togetherness!

My impressions of South Sudan:
Only one street downtown is paved, all others are muddy or dusty. There is no water pipe system, neither potable water nor sewage. The fresh water is carried by trucks from the Nile, slightly treated. It is rumored that the next possible president will relocate the capital city to the middle of South Sudan, where he was born. Therefore, external aid avoids any financial support in the infrastructure. If the infrastructure would be stable, investors would come to invest in this country. South Sudan has the natural resource oil. At bottom, it could be a country with access to basics for all inhabitants.
There is supposed to be a small group of people who take care of themselves and collect the income from the oil. “The country isn’t poor, it is poorly managed.” This is a quote of one participant of the workshop.
72% of the people are between 15 and 35 years old — what a human resource!