South Sudan

UNMISS helps local authorities prepare for managing influx of returnees

ROSELINE NZELLE NKWELLE/FILIP ANDERSSON

UNITY- People returning home after having been refugees or internally displaced is a sign of trust in the South Sudanese peace process, but it is dividend of stability that comes with challenges: more basic services must be delivered, potential land right issues resolved and cordial relations with host communities established to ensure the safety of returnees.

“The role of every sector of the government in managing the return and reintegration of these people has been made very clear to us,” declared Samuel Majang Mut, Acting Director General of Health in Unity State, after participating in a workshop organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to discuss these topics.

More than 45 stakeholders from all seven counties of the state were in attendance to learn more about how to deal with the positive consequences – an ever-increasing influx of people choosing to come home - of the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in 2018 and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity two years later. Along with officials of the state’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, line ministries were also represented in an attempt to coordinate efforts to make the return process as smooth as possible.

“Since my appointment, this is the first time I am meeting my colleagues from other counties,” said Ruot Riek Teng, a Relief and Rehabilitation Commission official for Koch County. “This meeting helps us share best practices and to support one another.”

Basic protection needs, the necessity of gender mainstreaming, the risks of disputes as a result of scarce resources were all discussed in detail, to enable stakeholders to contribute to the implementation of the 2020 South Sudan National Action Plan for Return, Reintegration and Resettlement.

“As an engineer working with the Ministry of Housing, Land, and Public Utilities, I have acquired the skills to handle conflicts that may arise from issues relating to land access,” said Peter Gatduel, adding that such disputes, if not properly dealt with, can easily spiral out of control.

Together, the workshop participants came up with an action plan and a list of requests: the introduction of a formal justice system, the graduation of unified military forces and their deployment to locations with many returnees and firm governmental commitments to provide, alongside humanitarian partners, basic services for all. All of this, according to the signed document, is to take place within three years.

“Your ideas and recommendations to foster a conducive environment for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons have been noted and we (UNMISS) will continue to support you along the way,” said Helen Tonga, representing the peacekeeping mission’s Recovery, Return and Reintegration.