Members of Dr. Riek Machar’s opposition group in the Yei River area’s Panyume have praised the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for its engagement in peace advocacy amid challenging conditions.
This follows a visit by a team from UNMISS, comprising Rwandan peacekeepers, the Mission’s head of the Juba area field office and human rights officers, to the area on Friday last week.
“I thank UNMISS for its commitment to peace negotiations, including visiting our sites (opposition-controlled areas),” noted Nelson Modi Joseph, the opposition’s Human Rights Commission chair in the Yei River area.
“So, as UNMISS continues to work through its mandate, and with the support from the international community, I think South Sudanese shall soon experience peace after the extended period of three months,” Modi said.
During open discussions, Mr. Modi expressed optimism that as UNMISS implements its mandate with support from the international community, people of South Sudan shall achieve peace after the slightly over three-month extended period for the peace parties to reach final agreement on the formation of a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).
He added that the extended period of one hundred days was appropriate and enough for the political parties to resolve their differences through meaningful and peaceful negotiations.
Modi also appealed to both the government of South Sudan and the opposition forces not to harass civilians, in order to allow internally displaced persons and refugees to return home and concentrate on development activities, like farming.
Meanwhile Gen. John Gatjiath, the opposition sector commander for Panyume, said he was happy for UNMISS’s frequent visits to the area and other locations where opposition forces are based.
“This gives us room to have discussions with human rights experts. However, I would like to urge the UN and the international community to take this matter of detaining our leader seriously, and ensure that he is released,” Gen. Gatjiath said, referring to Dr. Riek Machar’s restricted movement, where he needs permission from IGAD – the regional Intergovernmental Authority for Development – to leave his current base in Khartoum.
“How can negotiations go on when he is being restricted from free movement? Is this what you people call human rights?” he asked, urging the intervention of the UN to expunge such restrictions.
He also said he hoped that engaging in such direct discussions with the human rights members of the UN would help address such concerns, including the issue of prisoners of war in the custody of the government of South Sudan.