Nangarhar tribes sign local peace pact to end longstanding, violent dispute
JALALABAD - A UN-backed peace initiative has helped ease a longstanding land dispute in Nangarhar, demonstrating the power of local communities to determine their fate through dialogue, even against the backdrop of the broader conflict playing out across the country.
What started two years ago in Jalalabad as a land dispute between two tribes – the Khogyani and Kharoti – escalated into a deadly conflict disrupting the lives of more than 750 families, creating problems for neighbouring communities, forcing many relocations and preventing children from attending school.
“I left my job because of the fighting,” said Shakila, a teacher from the Khogyani tribe, who, along with many others, were forced to stop going to work due to the risk of violence breaking out.
Several families that relocated to other parts of Nangarhar faced the economic consequences of setting up new homes and new business, and establishing new community relationships.
To facilitate a peaceful resolution to the Khogyani-Kharoti dispute, officials from UNAMA’s Jalalabad regional office met repeatedly over several weeks with leaders from the Khogyani and Kharoti, in coordination with Nangarhar’s Provincial Peace Committee, the Department of Women’s Affairs and prominent religious leaders.
The two tribes ultimately agreed to a three-day jirga, a traditional form of mediation used across Afghanistan to resolve disputes. The jirga, which took place in September, was led by a 21-member mediation team that met with representatives from both tribes.
The jirga resulted in a jointly written resolution to end the dispute, with representatives of both tribes announcing that they would return to their communities and organize and implement the decision.
Notably, representatives from both tribes at the jirga included women.
“Women can play a vital role in peace, security and decision-making, and they need to be given opportunity to do so,” said Zarghona Naimi, a member of Nangarhar’s Provincial Peace Committee. “In this jirga, women from both tribes actively participated to provide their contributions.”
UN officials present at the jirga praised the local mediators and called the deal an example of how local peacebuilding can bring positive results.
“After the jirga, I hope to resume work,” said Shakila, who said she felt optimism when she learned about the the success of the negotiations.
A representative from the Khogyani tribe, Sayed Shah Hazrati, said he hoped that the jirga would lead to lasting peace so that the two communities could go back to their normal lives.
“The conflict has not only taken lives but also prevented scores of children from going to school,” said Hazrati, who noted that one of his relatives was injured in the tribal clashes. “This jirga will open the way for children to return to school to pursue their education and a better future.”
For Abdul Hadi, a member of the Kharoti, the jirga helped sidestep an extremely volatile situation. He said he is now hopeful that the agreement will foster lasting peace between the two communities and enable them to work together on economic development.
“Peace and unity among the two tribes are key to our prosperity,” said Hadi.
In other areas of the country, UNAMA has been working on similar community-level initiatives with Provincial Peace Committees, Department of Women’s Affairs, religious scholars and media partners to support peaceful resolutions to local conflicts.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.
UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.