Joint UN effort to clear mines and ammunition keeps communities safe in South Sudan
A joint effort to clear unexploded mines and ammunition, and to educate people about the risks of remnants of war, is helping keep cattle herders and local communities safe in the Northern Bahr El Ghazal region of South Sudan.
A patrol involving a team from the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) visited Majak-Joong, a cattle camp located in the far north of the country, near the border with Sudan and Abyei.
The area has been the site of violent clashes in the past that have resulted in many unexploded ordnances being left behind.
UNMAS technical field manager, Antonio Checo, said that items were found just a few kilometers outside the village, near the river.
“One of the items the team found was a rocket, which will be disposed of, to make sure that the area is cleared,” said Antonio Checo.
Local authorities from the area joined the patrol team to help locate potential remnants of war. The border advisor for the area, Peter Reech Kuol, said the cattle camp at Majak-Joong had been abandoned for decades because of ongoing conflict and civilians were yet to settle back into the area.
“Twenty years ago, a woman was killed by a landmine in Majak-Joong. Many cows were also killed by explosives in the same area. To date, the area has still not been cleared of mines,” he said.
As well as mine clearance, the UNMAS team provided education to about 250 members of the local community through seven training sessions.
“The community will benefit because, after the disposal of hazards, other teams and non-governmental organizations will be able to visit the area,” said Antonio Checo.
One of the participants in the training sessions, Achol Madut, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn how to identify unexploded ordnances and to understand the risks they pose.
“Now I have learned the danger of mines, particularly what they look like, I will pass the same message to people who did not attend the session” he said.
In addition to the mine awareness training, a civil affairs team from UNMISS is promoting reconciliation in the area. A peace conference held in January 2016 has brought the neighbouring Apuk and Bul communities together. Dinka and Nuer communities in the grazing areas used by cattle keepers have also benefited from an improved relationship.