Police Community Relations Committee in Lainya give hope to communities, despite challenges

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The Lainya Police Community Relations Committee continues to hold grassroots dialogue, promoting peace, security and trust among uniformed personnel and communities, despite significant challenges. Photo by Taban Alfred/UNMISS.

2 Jul 2024

Police Community Relations Committee in Lainya give hope to communities, despite challenges

Taban Geofrey Koma Alfred

CENTRAL EQUATORIA – “Earlier our people were mired in repeated conflict cycles, which created a fear of uniformed personnel among civilians,” reminisces retired Bishop Elioba Lokuru, Chair of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in Lainya, a county in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state.

“The distrust wasn’t merely limited to communities. Even uniformed personnel would look at everyone with suspicion,” he adds.

However, Bishop Lokuru reveals that with the establishment of a functioning PCRC—a community-led mechanism supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that focuses on creating more secure environments by promoting dialogue—things in his county are much better.

“Our PCRC has faith leaders, local chiefs, youth representatives as its members. This has enabled us to reach grassroots communities to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation that makes a positive difference in the way military personnel and civilians interact,” he says.

One of the key successes of the PCRC has been the facilitation of such civilian-military dialogue in five payams (administrative areas) in Lainya county. This, according to the Committee’s members, has led to a tangible reduction in violence, as well as encouraged displaced people to return to their original settlements.

Despite these successes, the PCRC faces significant challenges, chief among which is often a lack of backing by local authorities, which is ameliorated to a certain extent by assistance from the UN and nongovernmental organizations.  

Other obstacles that Committee members face include a lack of communication between the government and opposition forces; seasonal cattle migration that creates friction between settled farmers and nomadic herders; as well as political mis and disinformation that can discourage voluntary returns or inflame tensions among residents. A lack of services such as clean water, healthcare, and shelter, too, continue.

While navigating these challenges is tricky, dedicated PCRC members continue to do their best to send messages of peace and security to everyone, an endeavour in which they have been using local radio stations, which have helped in tackling misinformation.

These Committees in Lainya and Yei are now looking for opportunities to initiate peace talks between government forces and a range of opposition personnel.  

“We believe that violence isn’t a solution for our people. We need to encourage parties across political divides to find common ground,” avers Bishop Lokuru.

As the situation in Yei and Lainya continues to evolve, one thing is clear: the PCRC's commitment to promoting peace and community relations has made it a beacon of hope for all, paving the way towards a more peaceful future.

UNMISS, for its part, remains ready to help, as expressed by Njoki Rahab Kinyajui, the Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Juba, during a visit.

“We are here, speaking to all of you, to make sure we get firsthand information about the incredible work you are doing, as well as the challenges you face,” she said. “This will enable us to provide targeted support to such committees, enabling the PCRC to increase impact and effectiveness.”