Displaced people in Yambio interact with UNMISS, partners on constitution-making and upcoming elections

unmiss south sudan constitution politics gender western equatoria yambio unmiss undp un women unhcr refugees returnees

120 displaced persons and refugees come together at a joint forum by UNMISS, UNDP, UNHCR, UN Women and the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission on constitution-making and elections. Photo by Denis Louro/UNMISS

8 May 2023

Displaced people in Yambio interact with UNMISS, partners on constitution-making and upcoming elections

Denis Louro Oliver

WESTERN EQUATORIA – As South Sudan begins gearing up for its first-ever elections and drafting its permanent constitution, the UN Peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, in its role as this young country’s partner for durable peace, is focused on enabling internally displaced people understand the crucial role they play in this ongoing democratic transition.

“Returnees and displaced persons must understand and contribute to the constitution making process as well as participate in free, fair, and credible elections. We have suffered immensely through repeated conflict and our voices matter,” said David Bundu, a participant at a two-day constitution-making workshop in Western Equatoria’s capital, Yambio.

Attended by more than 120 participants, mainly displaced persons and refugees, the forum was jointly facilitated by UNMISS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

The focus during the deliberations—ensuring young and disabled people as well as women, including widows, are involved in constitution-making.

“Women at the grassroots level usually feel left out of any political or governance related process. We want the constitution to address issues regarding family law and ensure we have a seat at the decision-making table. Mostly, it is either men or women from the country’s capital, Juba, who are part of such for a. But women’s participation at all levels is essential if we are to look forward to a bright future,” Evelyne Joseph, a participant advocating for women’s rights at the forum, said eloquently.

For her part Margret Joshua, a Gender Affairs Officer from UNMISS, spoke to participants on key matters such as ownership of family property and access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence.

“To accurately reflect gender concerns at the grassroots, its vital we speak to local communities to get a sense of what is important for them. This is important to ensure that South Sudan’s permanent constitution is gender-responsive,” she revealed.

Popular participation and civic engagement in democratic processes is the goal, said Christopher Murenga, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state.

“Every citizen of South Sudan has the right to actively participate in the critical exercises such as drafting a permanent constitution and the upcoming elections. Informed votes form the backbone of any electoral process. Therefore, it is crucial we make sure all voices are heard and included to make sure the country, as a whole, can look forward to a peaceful, prosperous future,” stated the high-ranking UN official.