Community leaders in Jonglei request immediate retrieval of arms from civilians at UNMISS forum
A spate of intercommunal violence, revenge attacks and abductions, leaving death and displacement in its wake, has been a recurring feature in Jonglei state in the recent past.
This disturbing trend is cancelling all the gains made towards peace and reconciliation in the region as well as hampering implementation of the provisions contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
Issues of security, disarmament and restoration of law and order were, therefore, key themes at a recent three-day UNMISS Governors and Stakeholders Forum held in Bor.
A consultative meeting attended by Denay Chagor, Governor of Jonglei, and his deputy Antipas Nyok Kucha, together with their cabinet, state ministers, county commissioners, traditional leaders, women and youth groups plus a cross-section of civil society, the forum was a trust- and confidence-building exercise facilitated by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Division as well as a prelude to a larger Governors Forum planned later in the year.
During deliberations, every county in this conflict-ridden state made presentations stressing the critical need to beef up security; ensure the immediate graduation and deployment of unified forces; and a simultaneous retrieval of arms from civilians.
Biel Boutros Bol, Fangak County Commissioner, was emphatic on the last point. “Disarming civilians is important in order not to disadvantage one community against the other. Considering the number of arms that fell into the hands of civilians during the civil war and in the spirit of the peace agreement, it is crucial that planned disarmament takes place in tandem with security sector reforms,” stated Mr. Bol.
“Persistent abductions and revenge killings must stop, and they can only stop if we retrieve all arms from civilians and introduce professionally trained police and soldiers who will protect all communities,” he added.
Governor Chagor added his voice to the needs and demands of community members. “We are here to listen to your issues and find workable solutions for them. All communities across the state face similar issues—lack of drinking water; havoc caused by flooding; poor infrastructure in terms of schools and hospitals; child abductions, communal violence and revenge killings. These problems won’t be resolved unless we talk about them and address them.”
Commenting on differences between state officials in following the Revitalized Peace Agreement, Governor Chagor reiterated that dialogue and willingness to accommodate diverse opinions will bring peace. “I believe in teamwork—we cannot achieve a sustainable peace if we don’t come together to serve our people. There is merit in healthy debate. If there is confusion, let’s deal with it, arrive at mutually acceptable solutions and move forward.”
For his part, Isidore Boutchue, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Greater Jonglei, appreciated the considered discussions during the forum and stated that the mission will continue standing by the people and government of South Sudan as the country begins consolidating a fragile peace, drafting a permanent constitution and paving the way to free and fair elections.
Professor Julia Aker Duany, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service and Human Development, encapsulated the forum’s deliberations eloquently. “South Sudan will not collapse if we all work as a true coalition and accept our collective responsibility to build a better, more prosperous future for all communities.”