South Sudan army: It’s time to rebuild public trust and respect human rights to achieve peace

unmiss south sudan juba sspdf national army human rights trust peace

Officers of the South Sudan People's Defence Force receiving a refresher on human rights. Photos: James Sokiri/UNMISS

30 Jan 2023

South Sudan army: It’s time to rebuild public trust and respect human rights to achieve peace

James Sokiri

“If we want to truly transform and rebuild this country and a national army, we must listen to the voices of our civilians, so we can restore public trust and confidence,” Captain Joseph James Mangar, Head of the Department of Training and Advocacy on Military Justice of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), said at a recent training in Juba.

His statement set the tone for the workshop and its aim: to create awareness, impart skills and knowledge on human rights, and help create positive attitudes in the minds of the army to build productive relations.

Bessong Ndip, a Human Rights Officer working for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, agreed.

“Any failure on the armed forces to consistently uphold human rights when protecting civilians can undermine the trust needed for cooperation between uniformed personnel and citizens,” he said.

“The army, and the police, play a key role in safeguarding civilian lives, not least when it comes to preventing sexual and other kinds of gender-based violence, which cause horrible insecurity for women and girls, especially when they see that perpetrators are not held accountable.”

Captain Mangar responded by pointing out the necessity of refraining from tribalism and divisive politics if a sense of unity is to be achieved.

Organized and funded by the peacekeeping mission’s Human Rights Division, the workshop brought together 35 female and male commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the government army, 20 of whom were women.

Not only were the participants educated on human rights but also on the mandate of the mission: protecting civilians; creating a conducive environment for humanitarian access; monitoring, investigating, and reporting on human rights violations; as well as supporting the implementation of the peace accord.

First Lieutenant Aluel Bol Deng from the Female Affairs Division of the armed forces enjoyed the training opportunity and pledged to share her new knowledge with colleagues unable to attend.

“I am going to work hard to bridge the trust gaps that exist between the military and civilians, so that we understand each other when we need each other’s support. I will brief my colleagues to make sure that they’ll do the same,” she said.