Restoring the country's breadbasket through locally driven solutions for social cohesion and early recovery
Prior to the spread of the conflict to the Equatoria Region after the collapse of the 2015 peace deal, southern Central Equatoria State was considered to be an island of stability and the bread-basket of South Sudan. Agriculture was one of the mainstays in the area and food insecurity levels remained low, despite the hunger that had engulfed much of the rest of the country at the time. Yei and Kajo-Keji towns also retained significant infrastructural developments in terms of schools, healthcare, roads, and electricity. However, these developments were more or less reversed by the spread of the conflict to places, such as Yei, Morobo, Kejo Keji and Lainya and led to the widespread displacement, the cessation of services, and the destruction and dilapidation of infrastructure, not to mention the devastation of livelihoods and the agricultural potential of the area. Subsequent insecurity caused by continued fighting by both signatory and non-signatory groups to the 2018 Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) has further razed the region, preventing the sustainable (re)integration of displaced persons, early recovery and stabilization. Road ambushes, abductions, looting and harassment, greatly interrupted farming and other livelihood activities, and led, and continue to lead to increased risks and occurrences of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV).
The Area based programme (ABP) will target communities in Kejo-Keji, Yei, Morobo and Lainya to support social cohesion and promote stabilization between politically divided communities and between returnees and host communities. The programme will seek to create a conducive and safe environment for civilians by engaging armed actors and supporting community policing.
It will also enhance local capacities for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes arising out of competition over land and resources between communities, while at the same time promoting early recovery and resilience in such a way that seeks to revive the regions potential for production and development after years of warring.
The quick response and timing of launching the ABP is critical as challenges to early recovery have come at a time when people have started to return to their places of habitual residence, leaving refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda. As is the case throughout many parts of South Sudan, in a setting of scarce resources and heightened competition over land and administrative control, returns could engender further divisions.
At the same time, as highlighted elsewhere, although Equatorian populations are divided, there are markers of collective identity and political unity that exist and can be leveraged.