Following escalating cross-border and intercommunal conflict in Twic, UNMISS steps up patrols

UNMISS intercommunal violence cattle migration aneet displacement twic warrap peacekeepers peacekeeping

Following escalating cross-border and intercommunal clashes between Twic, South Sudan and the Abyei Special Administrative Region, UNMISS has increased its protective presence through patrols and community engagement. The main aim: To reduce tensions and begin peace dialogues among feuding parties. Photo by Zejin Yin/UNMISS

23 Mar 2022

Following escalating cross-border and intercommunal conflict in Twic, UNMISS steps up patrols

Zejin Yin

WARRAP – Frequent clashes between communities living in Twic county, Warrap state, and neighboring Abyei Special Administrative Region have created a situation where innocent people are increasingly displaced and the security environment is volatile.

To reduce tensions and build confidence among the conflict-affected, peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have conducted a week-long patrol to Wunrok, Turalei and Ajakuac, areas closest to the epicenter of violence—Aneet.

Communities here have harrowing tales to tell.

“Incessant fighting has scarred all of us,” revealed Barac Aguer, Administrator of Ajakuac. “Thousands of people have crossed the border, arrived in our midst seeking refuge and we have welcomed them as our brothers and sisters.”

Mr Aguer was speaking with members of the UN Peacekeeping mission's integrated patrol.

“We are peace loving people, but when your life and the lives of your loved ones are in constant jeopardy, you are forced into a situation where there is no choice but to take up arms in self-defence,” he continued poignantly.

The threat to safety and security here has been exacerbated by attacks in early March, which have also placed the spotlight on the dire humanitarian situation. More than 40,000 people are awaiting much-needed aid in 13 locations across Twic.

County Commissioner Deng Tong Goc is perturbed by this turn of events.

“I recently visited several camps with displaced people, and they need all the help they can get,” stated Commissioner Goc emphatically. “While the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group has completed an emergency state-level assessment, assistance has not yet reached the most vulnerable,” he added.

What is most moving, though, is the Commissioner’s genuine concern for everybody impacted by violence.

 “Despite repeated conflict and the threat it poses to our own residents, we have kept our roads on the Abyei side open, allowing people from across the border to flee to Kuajok or Wau for safety, he said “We are all human beings and equally scared.”

For its part, UNMISS is continuing to engage with community leaders, local authorities, grassroots influencers and uniformed actors for a peaceful, dialogue-based solution to restore calm and stability.

“If we resort to violence and vengeance to resolve differences, the situation will only deteriorate,” stated Edwin Njonguo, a Civil Affairs Officer. “There is no problem that cannot be settled peacefully, so we urge all feuding parties to come together, speak about their concerns and find a mutually acceptable way forward, bringing an end to this suffering.”

For their part, community members and local authorities expressed their willingness to engage in productive conversations but stressed the need for the national government to harness its best efforts for a permanent solution to such cross-border issues.

The patrolling UNMISS team also met with the High-Level Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi, which is investigating a shooting incident that took place at Aneet Market last month, resulting in deaths and large-scale displacement.

Twic county and the Abyei Special Administrative Region have been embroiled in land disputes for years. Recent conflict was sparked following a survey conducted by the Abyei authorities related to the ownership of the profitable trade hub, Aneet Market, which, subsequently, escalated hostilities between the two neighbouring communities. Currently seasonal movement of cattle herders has also added to complex dynamics on the ground.