Realizing basic freedoms and human rights will deliver peace dividends for all citizens in South Sudan
“If you come together to forge a common front to implement the peace agreement in the spirit of cooperation, coordination and positive political will, you will be able to achieve the dividends of real peace in terms of the basic rights that you long fought for.”
That was the powerful message from the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Central Equatoria, Geetha Pious, to civil society groups attending a special training session coinciding with Human Rights Day.
The event was designed to build the capacity of civil society organizations in South Sudan to understand various aspects of human rights, including monitoring and investigation mechanisms, legal pathways, and the importance of accountability to end impunity.
It is part of UNMISS’ effort to implement a three-year plan to prevent a return to civil war, build durable peace, and support inclusive, accountable governance and free, fair, peaceful elections in line with the peace agreement.
There are a number of important benchmarks in that agreement that are yet to be implemented before elections can take place, including finalizing a permanent constitution.
“Next year is going to be vital. We are talking about elections, we are talking about creating civic space, all of those require freedom of expression and respect for human rights,” said Elizabeth Haynes-Sageder, UNMISS Human Rights Division Team Leader in Central Equatoria State. “I look forward to working, very strongly, with all of you to significantly impact on the human rights situation right from the top to the grassroot communities.”
Her words about the need for free and inclusive engagement between all stakeholders were echoed by Geetha Pious.
“It is important that basic freedoms and human rights are realized in this country to enable all citizens to choose their own leaders without fear of intimidation, harassment, and repression.”
Speaking on behalf of the groups, Ater Garang Ariak, said the forum had further deepened the relationship between the civil society network and the UN peacekeeping mission.
“This training is vital because we have gained new skills and knowledge to better engage our leaders, and, above all, we have learnt that the primary responsibility to protect every citizen from human rights violations and abuses lies with all those in authority.”
Adviser to the Governor of Central Equatoria State on Human Rights, Jennifer Lasuba, urged participants to put their new skills and knowledge into action.
“You have learned how to identify, investigate, monitor and report cases such as rape, harassment and forced or early marriages,” she said. “Now you are left with one more task: “Report accurately, timely and professionally because inappropriate reporting endangers the lives of both the reporters and victims.”