News / Africa

    Women Take Role in South Sudan Peace Talks

    South Sudan peace negotiators meet in a night club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 13, 2014.
    South Sudan peace negotiators meet in a night club in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 13, 2014.
    Marthe van der Wolf
    Three members of the team negotiating for South Sudanese rebels in Ethiopia are women.  They have been playing a role in what is usually a male arena.

    The ongoing high-level peace talks between South Sudan’s government and opposition include three women on the opposition side who are members of the national parliament in Juba.

    The three delegates said they were aware seeing women sitting at the negotiating table might look strange to some Africans.

    Sophia Pak Gai said she felt her country needed to be transformed.

    “We want to see that our people live in harmony and in peace.  And actually, we are here pushing for peace as women because the majority of the population in South Sudan are women, 65 percent,” she said.

    Fighting in South Sudan broke out mid-December between the opposition and the government headed by President Salva Kiir.

    The peace delegations have been in Addis Ababa for negotiations on a cease-fire since the beginning of January.  Each delegation consists of 10 members.

    The conflict began as a division in South Sudan’s ruling party, the SPLM.  The party is no stranger to war as it fought against its northern neighbor Sudan for decades.

    Pak Gai said the role of women during war should not be underestimated.

    “Women participated in many fronts, they took care of families, they nursed the wounded soldiers, they prepared food for soldiers, even in the front line.  And on top of this, they took arms actually.  They took arms along their counterparts," she said.

    One of the women who was fighting on the frontline is delegation member Banguot Amumm.

    She said that during negotiations, women were more specific than men.

    “For others, who will see us on TV, at the roundtable they will see it as a shock for them, and they were not expecting us as women to be the one rebelling.  We cannot accept to continue under the leadership of Kiir, where he organized himself and would start targeting certain ethnic groups to maintain himself in power,” said Amumm.

    The delegation of South Sudan’s government does not include any women.  Acting lead negotiator and Minister of Information Michael Makuei said the delegation was appointed by presidential decree.

    “What is important is not the gender representation but what is important is the achievement of the objective.  The objective is irrespective if they are represented or not,” said Makuei.

    But former minister of social development and SPLM deputy chairperson Sarah Nyanath believed it did make a difference if women were present.  She said women had different priorities than men, such as protecting women and children during conflicts.

    The SPLM has known affirmative action for a long time, assigning at least a quarter of seats to women in every party body.  In parliament, 100 out of 332 seats are women.

    The United Nations agency UN Women said that for the most part, there was a striking absence of women in formal peace negotiations around the world.  The agency said their role as negotiators, mediators, signatories or even witnesses remained notably low.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora