High-level delegation meets local communities in Greater Pibor to understand challenges, offer solutions
GREATER PIBOR ADMINISTRATIVE AREA – As South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is set to complete its democratic transition with its first-ever elections, communities continue to face severe challenges.
A lack of educational facilities and basic services were identified by a cross-section of community members in Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), including youth and women’s representatives as well as local authorities, who were speaking to a high-level delegation led by Guang Cong, the Deputy Special Representative-Political of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“Years of cyclical violence, cattle raids and revenge attacks have impacted young people and the economy. Youth remain idle because there is a lack of jobs and then get embroiled in conflict. We need sustained vocational skills training for young people to re-focus their energy productively,” stated David Koli Buru, a youth representative.
Women and girls, revealed participants, have been disproportionately impacted.
“Sexual violence has been a constant corollary of persistent disputes across the region,” revealed Hana Bojoi Gola, a women’s representative.
“We need peace to prevail and also focus on education for girls so that they can grow up to be economically independent,” she added passionately.
The paucity of quality education was a refrain picked up by local authorities as well.
The authorities revealed that it is easier to talk about peace when a decent education system is in place. “When we separated from Bor, Jonglei, we had to leave behind many of our permanent assets such as schools.” Revealed Kaka Gain, Minister of Education, GPAA. “Today, 90 per cent of children in Greater Pibor are learning under trees. It is difficult to spread messages of peace when schools aren’t functional; after all peace begins with education.”
Other challenges: A lack of funds to pay salaries and reinforce infrastructure.
“Most of the time, we only receive salaries for two counties which I must share amongst the seven counties. We need more funds from the government for community development,” said Lokoli Ame Bullen, GPAA’s Chief Administrator.
After carefully listening to specific concerns, Deputy Special Representative Cong called for reinforcing support efforts by the UN Peacekeeping mission as well as development partners in ameliorating these difficult issues.
“Greater Pibor is a priority area for UNMISS and partners. We are here not merely to listen to your concerns but also to find workable solutions for these problems in collaboration with development partners, including international nongovernmental organizations,” stated the high-ranking UNMISS official.
The visiting delegation included representatives from the African Union (AU), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (RJMEC).