“We are building peace, but we need development” say residents of Ibotu in Eastern Equatoria
A team of integrated UN peacekeepers recently headed to Gunyoro, which lies some 20 kilometres south of Torit in Eastern Equatoria. After more than three hours of an arduous journey, the patrol team finally arrived in Ibotu, home to an estimated 32,000 people.
“Our aim is to find out about the general wellbeing of the people and consult them on possible Quick Impact Projects the mission can implement to support them,” said Lieutenant Colonel Reuben Klutse, a representative of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and leader of the visiting team.
Quick Impact Projects are small-scale, low cost projects, funded by the mission, that are planned and implemented within a short timeframe.
While on the ground, peacekeepers were faced with a plethora of requests from representatives of the area.
Although the predominantly farming village lives off earnings from small-scale cultivation of maize, cassava, sorghum, and groundnuts, intermittent droughts in recent years continue to result in crop failures.
“Organizations such as Care International and Plan International sometimes pass by to provide us with seeds. But it is not enough. Once, we even had to help some organizations to construct a feeder road to our community to make sure we could cultivate enough for ourselves,” said Mathew Orono Kyirino, a community leader.
Education is another challenge here. Although government teachers have been sent to the community, the old primary school building is dilapidated and unsafe. So, children are taught under trees.
Ibotu also lacks a medical health centre. This means the sick are taken to the nearest hospital in Torit for treatment, sometimes that journey is made on foot.
“Apart from the challenge of hunger and access to potable water, we have no opportunity to further our education beyond primary school education here,” said Gabriel Oboro Sensilio, a youth representative.
However, there was a beacon of light despite all the challenges: Unlike other hotspots UNMISS teams visit, the village is relatively peaceful and has an effective traditional dispute resolution mechanism in place. Here, miscreants are quickly dealt with by the chief who is assisted by the Monyomiji (local youth body). Nonetheless, peace thrives on economic empowerment.
“We are building peace, but we need development,” added Susan Ohire Carlo, a women’s representative.
With another day of consultations over, the patrol team set off for Torit, but not without assuring community members that their concerns and challenges will receive due consideration.