OXFAM NEW ZEALAND / KUP WOMEN FOR PEACE
THE WOMEN STARTED THEIR WORK in the 1990s. Having watched decades of local, tribal conflict destroy homes, lives and livelihoods, women from three rival tribal groups put aside their fears and walked out onto the battlefields to call for peace.
“We had already lost so much, lost our loved ones. We had to do something. Someone had to start somewhere,” said Agnes Sil, one of the groups founding members.
The restoration of peace in Kup also saw the return of some basic services to the region and enabled people to start rebuilding their lives.
But just over two years ago, that hard-won peace was ruptured and the region faced dark days as conflict escalated.
Hundreds of people fled their homes and gardens. People were once again left without access to basic services, schools and health.
But KWP, having seen that change is possible, maintained their determination to see peace restored. The group worked to raise awareness within the community and facilitated meetings with key leaders from the warring tribes.
For the communities involved, the signing of the treaty marks a pledge to embrace peaceful development and end the conflict and bloodshed that has been part of their lives for too long.
The treaty was witnessed by key government representatives, churches and community of Kup. People who have been displaced by the conflicts will gradually move back into Kup to gather back their lives.
Dennis Uba, Oxfam’s Country Director in Papua New Guinea, said: “People who were displaced by the violence are gradually moving back to Kup to rebuild their lives. This peace agreement has given people much to hope for.
“News of this achievement has already prompted other tribal groups nearby to talk of a broader peace pact in Simbu Province.”
An immediate concern for many people in Kup is the upcoming national parliamentary elections in June this year.
KWP are working hard to ensure peace endures during this highly-charged time. They have organised and facilitated several community meetings, linking in representatives from government, church, law and justice.
There is community consensus from both tribes of the warring clans that peace must be maintained.