Juba protection of civilians forum ends with unanimous call to end violence, foster social cohesion

unmiss south sudan juba protection of civilians forum

Internally displaced persons and representatives from six neighbouring communities in Juba recently gathered to discuss how to better keep civilians safe and relations harmonious. Photos: James Sokiri/UNMISS

22 Dec 2022

Juba protection of civilians forum ends with unanimous call to end violence, foster social cohesion

James Sokiri

JUBA - Peace and social-cohesion activities organized and funded by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have enabled the six communities in and around checkpoint environs in Juba, such as Jondoru, Moroyok, Lukwilili, Nakitun, including internally displaced persons living next to UN House to live harmoniously together.

Wilson Lodu, Chairman of the Inter-Community Peace Organization, set up with the support of the peacekeeping mission, said that gatherings for football tournaments, peace forums and other events have been critical in mending fences between the internally displaced and the neighbouring communities.

“We used to look at one another as real enemies, but now we have learnt that peace is possible if we shun hatred, discourage tribalism, end inter-ethnic divisions, and foster the unity in diversity already existing, thanks in part to UNMISS endeavours,” he continued.

Anan Mamun, an internally displaced mother of four, lost her husband during the conflict that broke out in Juba in 2013, called the UNMISS-organized conference she was attending “informative”.

“I have learned that all human beings are equal, be they women, men, boys or girls, and regardless of age. The occupation of houses or land of others, thefts, and incidents of sexual and other kinds of violence are wrong and are things that must be dealt with to uphold good intercommunal relations,” she said, adding that the full implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement is the correct way forward.

Ms. Mamun, a former resident of Jonglei State, has lived in the Juba camp for internally displaced persons for more than nine years. It is a stint she would rather not extend much further, but fearing for her security, she stays put, at least for now.

“Nobody wants to be displaced, it is a painful experience to live in a place built to house the houseless,” she said.

To make ends meet for herself and a total of eight children, she does leave the camp for the internally displaced during daytime.

“I go to Customs Market every day to buy veggies, which I can then sell in the camp. I don’t make enough money, though, and some days we don’t have anything to eat.”

While the overall security situation may not be good enough to tempt traumatized people to leave the temporary shelter they once fled to, relative peacefulness prevails among the communities invited to this peace forum, aimed to further improve coordination to better protect civilians.

“We are enjoying peace in our communities and rarely hear the sound of guns. I can go to the camp where my displaced friends live, meet and eat with them and even spend the night there without fear, and that freedom of movement goes both ways,” said Mr. Lodu.

Victor Fasama, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with UNMISS, shares that perception, and expressed his belief in community members’ ability to sort out potentially divisive issues by embracing togetherness.

“If some issue is tearing you apart, if fear makes it hard for women to fetch water or collect firewood, if there are concerns that cause disunity among you, those challenges will be overcome by yourselves if you, as peace agents, promote unity by leading by example,” he said, while pledging that UNMISS will continue to support lasting peace in any way possible.

The two-day forum, which brought together some 50 participants, was organized and funded by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section. It's main focus: to build capacities among interlocuters as part of ongoing efforts to foster peaceful coexistence; encourage an exchange ideas that promote peace; support displaced people and host communities in identifying key protection challenges and improving relationships among community members.

Moreover, the training sessions serve as means to raise awareness on protection of civilians and guide participants to identify protection needs of IDPs, returnees, propose solutions and facilitate preventive measures. 

The core takeaway from the event was an agreement by all participants on a time bound action plan to tackle major conflict drivers and protection issues proactively.