In 2011, South Sudan became a new nation with lots of hope and fanfare. Since then, the climate has deteriorated into a humanitarian crisis. Some of the underlying causes include divisions between the many tribes that make up the fledgling nation.
These issues aren’t geographically contained, affecting Sudanese diaspora communities in cities like Alexandria, Egypt. With an invitation from 2 prominent Egyptian leaders who wanted to help alleviate tensions simmering around tribal divisions in Alexandria’s South Sudanese community, we offered training on conflict resolution to help these communities address the underlying issues of conflict before they grew and became more problematic.
The 2-day training with 30 participants was built around the ideas of emotional intelligence and social identity. While it is imperative to honestly and constructively deal with wrongs the other party has committed, effective conflict resolution begins with an honest assessment of both parties’ contribution to the conflict.
As part of the program, participants developed a deeper self-awareness to help them identify their core values. They also identified strengths, weaknesses, and trigger points that have high potential to cause conflict. Attendees also explored communication models, stressing the need to relay and receive information in an environment conducive to building peace.
The training was also designed to give participants a chance to get to know other tribes and individuals in these groups. This emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships as opposed to simply reacting to problems after they happen. These relationships are a necessary step to build an atmosphere of peace before problems erupt. In order to bridge differences, negative stereotypes have to be overcome so that individuals and tribes can address each other based on who they are and not necessarily what they have done.
The group stated that the training shook them from their complacency and motivated them to take the initiative to be peace builders. They agreed that this was just a beginning and that a follow up time together in 2-3 months was needed to move forward the process of reconciliation in the South Sudanese community in Alexandria.
Ultimately, the hope is that the same power that sometimes contributes to societal violence can be garnered to move societies as a whole toward reconciliation and peace. While this training is just a beginning, the hope is that it could be replicated not just among the larger South Sudanese community in Egypt, but in the new nation itself, too.
Read more about our research on conflict resolution.