South Sudanese Fighter Who Responded to Peace is Now Agriculture Counselor

Angelo Edward Zingbondo is one of those who joined rebellion in Western Equatoria State leading to destabilization of peace and security in the fertile region of South Sudan.
Angelo Edward Zingbondo speaks to The Dawn at ETC headquarters in Nzara. Photo by Okech Francis

By Okech Francis 

Angelo Edward Zingbondo is one of those who joined rebellion in Western Equatoria State leading to destabilization of peace and security in the fertile region of South Sudan.

The 52 year old who was a Brigadier in the then rebel SPLM-IO group returned home after the signing of the peace agreement in 2018, underwent rehabilitation and training in cantonment before heading to his farm in Nzara where he has taken the lead in agriculture.

“In the bush, it was not easy, we would stay three days without food, you do not communicate with your people, we were always running and fighting,” Zingbondo told The Dawn in an interview in Nzara.

“The only thing you are doing in the bush, you are losing. There is nothing somebody is getting in the bush,” he said.

True to his words, Zingbondo explains the massive loss he made when he joined rebellion.

“I was a trader, a farmer with 100 feddans of maize, groundnuts, rice and sorghum,” he said, adding, “It all collapsed when I went to the bush.”

“I decided to return to work. The money I earn is helping my family; I pay school fees, it helps in terms of medication and feeding.”

An Excelsa Coffee tree in a plantation in Nzara. Photo by Okech Francis

South Sudan is recovering from years of a vicious crisis which disabled development growths and stunted its economy. The conflict which began in 2013 left hundreds of thousands of people dead, displaced millions more and disrupted its economy.

The implementation of the 2018 peace agreement has been going on in the country and is expected to lead to democratic elections next year and a new democratic government in 2025.

With economic erosion, communities struggled but the relative peace created by the implementation which brought together opposition parties in one government with President Salva Kiir Mayardit, individuals and communities have got the time to develop their livelihoods, away from war.

Many people who participated actively in the conflict are also embarking on individual developments as well as in their communities.

This is the scenario in Western Equatoria State currently. Using the vast fertile agriculture plain of the State to engage communities in production could well lead South Sudan to secure a vibrant peaceful future. This is called peaceful development, a concept China has developed in promoting peace both at home and across the globe.

In 2021, in a speech to mark the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911 China’s President Xi Jinping said that revolution led to search for path to national rejuvenation.

Peace has been the overriding principle in China’s exchanges with other countries for thousands of years. China is a big contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission and as well a big funder of the peacekeeping.

While it has not sought to overturn traditional norms in international peacebuilding, Chinese peacebuilding practices do prioritize issues with more emphasis on basic human needs.

Keith Krause, director of the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding noted that China chooses to pursue “peace” through “economic development.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping echoed this in May 2017 while discussing the Belt and Road which building entailed a road of peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation and connecting different civilizations. He maintained the need of growing open economies, participating in global governance and providing public goods as fundamental for global peace.

In Nzara, Zingbondo, husband to two wives, and father to 25 children has retraced his steps in farming, and now owns vast hectares for crop production. 

He is also employed as an agricultural extension worker by Equatoria Teak Company (ETC), majorly visiting farms in Nzara County, advising and counselling them on the best farming methods.

ETC is a company investing in Teak production in Nzara County.

According to the company, the current activities going on around Teak is replanting, then a long wait of 30 years for harvest.

“Looking at the time of waiting for the Teak to mature, we saw it ideal to engage the farmers in this fertile region in producing other cash crops to help their financial capability,” Charlie Tryon, the Chief Executive Officer of Maris Group, an investor in ETC, told The Dawn in Nzara.

ETC is also engaging communities in a mass production of Excelsa, a coffee species indigenous to the region, he said.

Zingbondo meanwhile has acquired a 2kms by 3kms land with plans to open it up next year for a coffee plantation.

“In the past, my family was growing coffee and they were getting a lot of money. I have even already planted a feddan which is 65 by 70 meters already,” he said.

Zingbondo believes it’s a huge livelihood bargain because ETC is willing to buy.

“With us here, our own oil is our coffee. We have got a ready market which is ETC,” he said.

“You harvest the coffee in the morning and in the afternoon you are already in the market-cash in your hands.”

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