17 July 2012 - The UNMISS Rwandan battalion was deploying to several areas in Western Equatoria State previously affected by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the mission’s top official said today in Yambio.
“They are going to be in Tombura, Yambio and Ezo and they will take action if citizens are under threat,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Hilde F. Johnson said at an UNMISS press conference during her one-day visit to the capital.
“We are taking away from this visit … a strong willingness to cooperate with the different forces here, whether the African Union (AU), the Regional Force … the UPDF (Ugandan People’s Defense Force) and the US advisors,” the SRSG said, referring to an international effort to combat the LRA.
Ms. Johnson noted that Yambio was one of the most peaceful and fertile areas of South Sudan, and could become a breadbasket distributing produce to the rest of the country.
“It is very unfortunate that the LRA presence has prevented many people from cultivating and utilizing that potential,” she said. “I think we are now at the stage where that can happen and I would really encourage that.”
Western Equatoria Governor Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro said the state had several needs, especially in the areas of rule of law, police and prison officer training. “We also want the AU to combat the LRA and bring (leader) Joseph Kony to justice and I believe this will be done.”
He also pointed to austerity measures in the country that were hindering developmental activities, asking if the UN could offer support. SRSG Johnson promised to consult UN agencies such as UN Development Programme to see whether it could help the state.
While in Yambio, Ms. Johnson also met with state authorities, civil society, political party leaders, the African Union (AU) Regional Task Force and the Ugandan and American anti-LRA forces.
William Warigo chairperson of the United Democratic Front in Western Equatoria, said “We are very pleased in this brief meeting held with the UN representative in South Sudan. The way that the UN has been supporting us right before referendum up to now is great and they are still doing a very fantastic job among our communities.”
Civil society representative Reverend Erneo Romai also expressed appreciation for Ms. Jiohnson’s visit. “Her coming has given a lot of hope on some of the issues … especially about the issue between South Sudan and Sudan.