THE Papua New Guinea Law and Justice Sector (PNGLJS) is partnering with the Western Highlands Provincial (WHP) Government and warring tribes of Ulga, Kulga and Hapwara in Lower Nebilyer to broker peace and reconciliation regarding a major tribal warfare that has prevailed for more than 40 years.

Since 1972, the tribal conflict has caused the loss of lives, property, livestock and livelihoods from what should be a peaceful and sustainable way of life for all parties concerned.

Many people who are now great grand-parents have survived this lifetime of anger and destruction. Other WHP leaders from these tribes who are now parents and grand-parents are now raising their own children from a once war-ravaged Nebilyer that is now easing through a change of tide.

But today, Nebilyer is changing.

Many years of economic hardships, tribal hatred and untrustworthiness from each other and a marginalised lifestyle are now being changed with support of the PNGLJS through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the WHP Government and all three tribal groups for construction of two pilot multi-purpose community justice centres (CJC) at Kongra and Teglha respectively. Each CJC will be assigned to village court officials to perform their work in collaboration with tribal leaders, councillors, youth, women and church groups and provincial government administration to promote restorative justice initiatives in these communities.

In December 2012, a combined ground breaking ceremony for the pilot projects was attended by respective leaders of the warring tribes and LJS representatives of national and provincial government at Kongra. Close to 1,000 people attended this grand event of singing with traditional finery.

Customary landowners of both tribes that own the project sites land not only signed a MoU with the WHPG and LJS, but also promised to surrender their land as project sites for construction of the Kongra and Teglha CJCs which are to be monuments for peace.

The LJS is engaging with the warring tribes to put a stop to the ongoing tribal conflict and bring back normalcy with delivery of law and justice services. The sector’s priority is to secure safety and security of the highlands highway that connects WHP with PNG oil and liquefied natural gas projects in the Southern Highlands Province.

In November 2011, the Kulga tribe incorporated a Kulga for Jesus Association to mobilise church groups and initiate concrete work to stop the tribal fight. Launching of the association was held at Teglha in March 2012 which was attended by representatives of national and provincial LJS agencies, tribal leaders of Ulga, Kulga, Hapwara and other neighbouring tribes and leaders of the district.

At the same event, the Kulgas apologised to the people of the Southern Highlands Province for hurting them along the highway during years of the war and gave pigs and garden food to them.

They declared the highway free for all travelling public. Honourable Member for Imbongu and Works and Implementation Minister Francis Awesa accepted the Kulga tribe apology and reciprocated it with a K100, 000 to the Association to support the peace and restoration work in the Nebilyer valley.

On 3 July 2013, the Kulga tribesmen signed an historical peace agreement with its other enemy Hapwara tribe.

For the loss of lives, property and destruction occasioned by the tribal fighting, the Kulga tribesmen paid to the Hapwara tribe K80, 000 with many pigs, cows, tree kangaroos, cassowary eggs and tree pythons.

Most significantly, both parties promised there would be change forever in Nebilyer for a life-time of peace, justice and prosperity.

Construction of the two multi-purpose community justice centres at Teglha and Kongra will start in 2014 after the WHP Building Board formally approved design and civil engineering documentation for the project in November 2013.

The project is funded by the PNGLJS through a public investment program.