Ambassadors unite to push for peace in South Sudan
When violence erupted in the villages around Bor, Paul Duop Lam ran for his life, heading straight to the United Nations base in the town in the hope of finding sanctuary.
Five years later, the camp has become his home. He still relies on food aid to survive, although he tries to make money from odd jobs to help support his mother and other family who live with him at the protection site.
Paul is a proud man. He wants to go home and use his skills in farming to support his family. He is mulling over whether now is the time to return because of the calm that has descended on the region as a result of the new peace deal. But he wants to be confident that he can find work back home and also that his children can access school and health services.
“Where my mother and father are – that is where my home is,” says Paul Duop Lam. “Now I came here, my mother is also here. I also have family there back home and I am ready to go back but not now – not until there are jobs for us.”
A delegation of ambassadors, based in Ethiopia, travelled to South Sudan to get a better understanding of the political and security situation following the signing of the revitalized peace agreement. Hosted by the Swiss Embassy and supported by UNMISS, the group from Australia, Austria, Denmark, Georgia, Greece, Poland and New Zealand visited Bor to see first-hand the progress being made towards peace as well as the challenges ahead.
“I think it is a very positive sign to see that people come back so people believe in this peace process,” says Swiss Ambassador Daniel Hunn. “If we from the international community side can do something to help build up again the infrastructure and services that are needed for this, we are certainly happy to do so.”
Local authorities have been working with counterparts in neighbouring administrative areas to advance reconciliation and peace. Now that relative calm has been restored, they say it is time for investment in new infrastructure to encourage displaced families and refugees to return. The Jonglei deputy governor, Dr. Agot Alier Leek welcomed the visit of the delegation of ambassadors and their commitment to supporting the peace process.
“This is actually recognition that the revitalized peace agreement that is ongoing in South Sudan is becoming real. We are very happy about that,” says Dr. Agot Alier Leek “In English they say seeing is believing. That we are visited in Bor today by the excellencies, the ambassadors, will be a very strong message to the people of the countries they are representing that peace is here in South Sudan.”
“What South Sudan needs now is to start with the initiative of development and an opportunity to offer services so that the population that are displaced, either inside the country or the region, can now start to think about coming back.”
Since November, UNMISS has helped 423 people return to their homes. Earlier this month, 70 people were helicoptered from the protection site to Yuai so they could begin rebuilding their lives.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, says UNMISS is committed to working with humanitarian partners to support all families who have made the decision that it is safe enough to return home.
He says that as the number of those needing protection in the camp reduces, UN peacekeepers currently on static duties at the protection site are being redeployed to create a more secure environment in the areas people are returning to. They will undertake more long-distance patrols and establish temporary bases in areas of need.
This will help give more families the confidence they need to go home and live the peaceful and prosperous life they deserve.