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South Sudan Recipient of the Rich Williamson Women of Peace Initiative Announced

IRI is thrilled to announce South Sudan Democratic Engagement, Monitoring and Observation Programme (SSuDEMOP) as the recipient of the Rich Williamson Women of Peace Initiative in South Sudan and Sudan

The initiative, which supports peace building projects in Sudan and South Sudan, was created in 2014 in honor of the late Ambassador Rich Williamson, former U.S. special envoy to Sudan and long-time member of IRI's Board of Directors serving as its vice-chairman from 2011 until his sudden passing in 2013. 

Ambassador Williamson was a stalwart voice for the advancement of democracy throughout his career and had a strong passion for supporting peace between Sudan and then-Southern Sudan.  Specifically, he was a crucial advocate for the peace process that led to the peaceful birth of South Sudan in 2011.  When I traveled with Ambassador Williamson on my first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011, I remember discussing South Sudan's independence and the critical issues facing the world's youngest nation.  I was struck by his deep knowledge of, and passion for, both Sudan and South Sudan and his determination to see a lasting peace in the region.

South Sudan is today reeling from an internal armed conflict that has raged since December 2013 between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir and anti-government rebels led by President Kiir's former deputy president Dr. Riek Machar.  This conflict has claimed thousands of lives and displaced approximately one million persons with women and children the most affected.  President Kiir's government recently began implementing a peace agreement with Dr. Machar's rebel factions, providing a unique opportunity for SSuDEMOP to engage local women in the transition and peacebuilding process.

A nonpartisan consortium of likeminded organizations and individuals involved and interested in the democratization process and related civic concerns in South Sudan, SSuDEMOP will work in areas greatly affected by the recent conflict in South Sudan over the course of 12 months with the objective of linking the voices of women to the ongoing national, regional and international peace efforts.  Women in South Sudan are historically recognized as agents of change with the ability to cross tribal, ethnic, and religious lines, while promoting peace and inclusion.  SSuDEMOP will organize focus group discussion and individual interviews with women from target locations including Bor, Awerial, Nimule, Juba, Mundri, and Maridi.  Increasing dialogue among women and other stakeholders in the peace process will ensure that they can play an important role in securing a fragile peace.

During IRI's Annual Freedom Dinner in 2014,Senator John McCain, chairman of IRI’s Board of Directors, paid tribute to Williamson and announced the creation of the Rich Williamson Women of Peace Initiative in South Sudan and Sudan, stating:

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to a man who knew and loved Africa and whose work helped to forge a lasting peace between Sudan and Southern Sudan, and the birth of South Sudan.  

Posted by

Leanne Blanchette

Senior Assistant Program Officer, Africa Division