Today the world will see the birth of a new country - the Republic of South Sudan. After two civil wars, a rocky six-year peace deal, and an almost unanimous referendum vote, Sudan is splitting in two. But as celebrations get under way in the capital Juba, fighting across the border in South Kordofan is casting a long shadow over the prospects for peace.
However South Kordofan does show there is an alternative. Since the 2005 peace agreement, locally-led peacebuilding organisations in both North and South have worked tirelessly to rebuild relations between communities ripped apart by civil war. Now, as the prospect of war again looms large, this work is paying of. To give just one example, in the west of South Kordofan, local organisations have brokered a ceasefire between the rival Nuba, Misseriyah and Dajou tribes. Similar agreements are in place across South Kordofan and south of the border in Unity State.
All too often local people are seen as merely victims of the conflict, but examples like this show agents of change. Where internationals are excluded from the ground in South Kordofan, it is left to local groups to act. When internationals find themselves with nobody to talk to, local groups can rely on long established relationships with local leaders to prevent communities being dragged into violence. As internationals are refused access, local organisations are there - because they've been there all along and will remain long after the current crisis is over. Local organisations are in place, with the capacity, contacts, and courage to respond rapidly and effectively.
The importance of local peacebuilding for long term stability is well-understood, but the current situation in Sudan shows that peacebuilders can and should play a role in short-term attempts to prevent violence. We send our best wishes to everyone in North and South Sudan on this historic day, and hope that those struggling to resist violence are able to prevent a slide into further conflict.