In Mayom, new returnees are promised support by local authorities and UNMISS
UNITY—“The relative stability following the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement is something we have to capitalize on if we want displaced people to return to their original settlements and start rebuilding their lives,” states John Juan Buom, Executive Director, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Unity state, South Sudan.
Mr Buom’s words echoed among some 50 participants at a workshop in Mankien payam [administrative division] in Mayom county, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The Executive Director is speaking at a time when his state is reeling from climate change as well as conflict. Floodwaters, the worst in decades, have yet to recede from many parts of the state, while recent violence in Southern Unity has left thousands displaced. Yet, his comments give hope to many who had fled in fear of their lives during past civil wars and are now waiting to return to their original settlements.
“I’m aware that we are still suffering as a state, but one has to plan for a better, more peaceful future,” he says matter-of-factly.
“For us, therefore, making sure all basic services necessary for our people to return home must be in place. We must have a long-term strategy for them and the only way forward is partnerships between the government and humanitarian organizations, here in Mayom county and also statewide.
Traditional leaders, women’s representatives, young people, faith-based groups, security actors and local authorities attending the forum also held robust discussions about their roles in managing the returns and reintegration.
One firm commitment at the end of these talks: A pledge from community leaders to allocate land for those who are returning to their original settlements.
“Land feeds us and shelters us. It gives us a place to call home. When war erupted in our state, it was a terrible time and many people fled with merely the clothes on their backs, leaving behind everything they owned. We vow to do everything in our power to help our people return to where they belong. I urge everyone to come back and reclaim the lives that they were forced to abandon,” said William Matut Madut, a respected community leader from Mankien.
For payam administrator, John Malith, meeting humanitarian needs of returnees remains a grave concern. “We appeal to humanitarian partners to help us provide much-needed aid to those who are slowly making their way back to our state. They need all the assistance we can provide, and we cannot ensure their smooth reintegration into our communities without support,” he said poignantly.
While the primary responsibility for creating conditions conducive to viable returns of displaced people and refugees lies with the Government of South Sudan, UNMISS, together with humanitarian organizations, is committed to sustaining this necessary endeavor across the world’s newest nation.
“As a peacekeeping mission, we are doing everything within our power and our mandate to bolster the national government’s efforts to make sure all conflict-affected people are on the pathway to recovery,” said Simon Yomon, a Protection, Reintegration and Transition Officer with UNMISS. “We will continue to help build a durable peace here in South Sudan and shore up our support for vulnerable civilians, including the newly returned.”
These discussions were facilitated by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Protection, Reintegration & Transition Section, in collaboration with local authorities in Mayom. The objective was to build local capacities and a collective will and urge those who were brutally displaced by past violence to finally trace their steps homewards.
Some 100,000 people are currently sheltering at the internally displaced persons camp in Bentiu.