Nine years ago, civilians had to flee their homes because of war. In 2016, many others were forced to follow suit, and occasionally, localized outbursts of violence in parts of South Sudan still lead to more people being displaced.
Some have returned, however, and with thousands of others expected to do the same, following a significant reduction of political violence, preparing for their needs for protection and harmonious relations with host communities is essential.
With that in mind, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan is currently working to build the capacity of security personnel and local leaders throughout the country to meet those needs, and to promote peaceful coexistence between host communities and returnees.
A two-day training session with some 40 participants was recently held in Bor, with representatives of local authorities, the judiciary, community leaders, civil society organizations, the police and the armed forces in attendance.
“Returnees will be safe and protected,” affirmed Michael Maker Deng Nai, a traditional court jury member and Chief who benefitted from the workshop.
Mobilizing communities to support the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement signed in 2018, thereby making it possible for humanitarians to carry out their work, was also on the agenda.
“We have identified potential protection concerns and steps for an effective response,” said Makwei Achol Thiong, who represented the civil society in the forum.
Adau Recho, a women’s rights activist, stressed the need for women to be adequately involved in the decision making, not least with regards to issues of peace and security.
“We women can easily identify protection needs because we are literally everywhere, surrounded by conflicting domestic issues that can escalate into intercommunal tensions,” she said.
Both Gilbert Nantsa, representing the peacekeeping mission, and Michael Mading Akueth, Chairperson of the Jonglei State Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, concluded that protection of civilians is, ultimately, the collective responsibility of local authorities, security forces and law-abiding citizen alike.