A Sudanese University student Fatah Elalim brought back lessons to his community in Sudan’s Western Kordofan State, about dialogue as a way to transform local conflicts non-violently.
Fatah Elalim is a student at the University of Dalanj, located in the second biggest city in South Kordofan State, a conflict-affected area at the border with South Sudan. When he is not in class, he moderates Sustained Dialogues between diverse students, organised by the University’s Peace and Development Studies Centre.
Each week Fatah Elalim facilitates dialogue sessions for a group of ten students, during which he helps them deconstruct prejudices and negative stereotypes by giving them space to reflect on and analyse their identities and life experiences.
The students talk about the conflicts they witness or have participated in, with a particular focus on issues of discrimination between rural and urban students, women and men, and students from diverse communities. By meeting on a weekly basis over a few months, the dialogue participants strengthen their understanding of each other’s experiences and perceptions. They eventually collaborate to design and plan non-violent actions they can take for peace on and off campus.
Last June, when Fatah Elalim was home, he witnessed violence breaking-out between his community and a nearby community. Many casualties were reported. Confident that he could contribute to resolve this conflict non-violently, he decided to create a Sustained Dialogue in his own community and make an effort to scale-down the violence. He explained, “with the help of some friends we selected a few young men who were potentially the driving force of the violence and talked about the possibility of bringing them together for a dialogue session.”
After this meeting, Fatah Elalim brought together twenty-three community members of different ages and spoke about the positive role of dialogue in mitigating tensions and in helping both communities foster peaceful coexistence.
“I was impressed by the positive reaction from the young people towards the Sustained Dialogue idea. Throughout my vacation time, many of them came to me asking about the [process].”
The Fatah Elalim’s conversations and meeting began to pay off. He explained, “many of them started re-assessing their views about conflict and its fatal impacts on the local communities. Although, tensions were high and people were hateful, we succeeded in making the community more aware and cautious about taking part in any future conflict.”