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South Sudan Peace Activist Receives US Institute of Peace Award

South Sudanese peace activist Rita Lopidia Abraham (Courtesy EVE)
South Sudanese peace activist Rita Lopidia Abraham (Courtesy EVE)

South Sudanese peace activist Rita Lopidia Abraham received the 2020 Women Building Peace Award on Tuesday from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) based in Washington, D.C.

Abraham told South Sudan In Focus that her struggle for peace in South Sudan has been an uphill task full of threats from men at the negotiating table.

"Sometimes when you talk to the parties and you speak truth to power, people seem to misunderstand you," she said. “This is very sad, because at the end of the day, the purpose is for peace. But with the warring parties (in South Sudan), it’s not always the case.’’

She will receive $10,000 to be used at her discretion and will be recognized by the Institute during a celebration in the fall of 2021.

Abraham, the CEO of EVE, an organization formed in 1996, said she will use part of the money to educate more women in South Sudan about their rights.

“I am so passionate about young women. So, part of the cash that will come with the award I hope to invest in the incubator project, which is a young women’s leadership project which the EVE organization is running. The plight of orphans has always been in my mind. Part of the award will go towards helping orphans and street children in the South Sudan capital, Juba,” Lopidia said.

Abraham, who is in her mid-30s, has been a delegate at the South Sudan peace talks in Addis Ababa and Khartoum. She signed a peace agreement in 2018 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on behalf of the South Sudan Women Coalition for Peace, an umbrella group of 50 women's organizations in South Sudan and the diaspora.

She said the leaders of South Sudan are lagging in implementing key provisions of the peace agreement.

"I am as disappointed as other South Sudanese (because) the implementation of the peace agreement has been reduced to power-sharing. People are only focusing on what positions they can get,’’ she said.

She said the parties are not talking about Chapter 2 of the agreement, which stipulates benchmarks for security arrangements in Juba and other states. She said issues in Chapter 1 of the arrangement have also not been addressed.

"We still have challenges in the formations of the legislature, state governments. And there is a power vacuum in the states. This is a big challenge,” she said.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.