Peaceful coexistence between displaced persons and host communities focus of UNMISS workshop

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An UNMISS workshop aimed at promoting social cohesion between internally displaced persons and host communities in Western Equatoria. Photo by Martin Siba/UNMISS.

28 Jul 2023

Peaceful coexistence between displaced persons and host communities focus of UNMISS workshop

Martin Siba

WESTERN EQUATORIA – Two years ago, surging conflict in the greater Tambura region led to an immense loss of life and left tens of thousands displaced.

The trauma of past violence still lingers in the minds of affected communities.

“We survived sexual violence and other gendered forms of abuse,” revealed Francisca Richard Nara, a displaced person and women’s rights activist.

“Conflict affects women and girls differently and, therefore, our protection needs require special consideration. That consideration begins with ensuring women are fully represented and can participate in taking decisions on issues that directly impact us,” she added.

Now relative stability has returned to Tambura and many have returned to their homes. But an overwhelming majority are still too afraid and are temporarily sheltering in areas in and around the state capital, Yambio. This situation has created a necessity to ameliorate possible tensions with the host community and promote peaceful coexistence.

Building capacities, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) brought together local authorities, displaced persons, and community leaders across Western Equatoria at a two-day workshop in Yambio to strengthen the social fabric here.

More than 50 participants, including 27 women, discussed key protection issues, South Sudan’s peace process and upcoming elections.

“We have identified potential protection concerns and are working on a response plan that will alleviate the burden of displacement bearing in mind appeals from both displaced and host communities,” averred Francisco Francis Hakim, Yambio County’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Office Coordinator.

For his part, Peter Julius, customary court member and community leader from Akorogbodi area, said he believes it is of utmost importance that displaced people feel safe and secure.

“We are all South Sudanese, and we must support each other in times of distress. We shall keep each other secure and live amicably,” he added.

Emmanuel Dukundani, an UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer, stressed that peace and safety is a collective responsibility.

“Social cohesion is a day-to-day process. We live peacefully when we treat each other respectfully and kindly. Peace starts at home in our daily lives, with our families and our neighbours,” he concluded.

While more needs to be done to heal the scars of conflict, such workshops are a stepping stone towards encouraging displaced people to begin tracing their steps homewards.