South Sudanese military personnel in Irube cantonment site request capacity building trainings be given to joint forces
IRUBE - Irube cantonment site, located in Eastern Equatoria, is one of four such sites in the state, and home to several personnel of the Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-iO) waiting to join the Necessary Unified Force in service of their country.
This group of SPLA-iO forces are habitual recipients of capacity building trainings delivered by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Recently, UN peacekeepers were once again at the cantonment to conduct a human rights workshop for more than 50 senior officers.
“We often find familiar faces amongst participants. However, questions posed during sessions suggest that information we previously shared did not get widely disseminated,” revealed Rosemary Astini, a Human Rights Officer working with the UN Peacekeeping mission. “Clearly, we need to sustain these sessions.”
The forum, which sought to deepen understanding of military officers with regard to international humanitarian and human rights laws and conflict-related sexual violence is expected to help prevent violations which may occur when military forces live in close proximity to civilian populations.
“The absence of rapes and killings in this area, for instance, is proof of the healthy relationship between us and the civilian authorities and people,” assured Brigadier John Kenyatta, Acting Commander of the cantonment site.
“Although we are separated from our families and lack basic necessities, we do our utmost to live in harmony with surrounding communities; they, in turn, also help us out a lot,” said Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lodovico Oryem.
Participants were also quick to highlight some peculiar challenges faced at the site and call for assistance.
“Female personnel lack feminine hygiene products and other toiletries. Shortages of water, food, medicine, shelter and even civilian clothes to change into when we are off duty are a persistent concern,” said Colonel Beatrice James Francis. “Last year, a humanitarian organisation distributed some items to us but that’s all gone.”
“As you can see, we are locked in when it rains because of the poor roads and cannot connect to neighbouring communities,” averred Renato Ohetan, a senior officer.
Breakout sessions interspersed with simulation exercises identified several recommendations for promoting, protecting, and respecting human rights laws, such as establishing human rights units or focal points within the forces to monitor and report on violations, and providing continued awareness.
“I think this time of peace requires that such UN trainings target joint opposition and government forces. All forces of the Revitalized Peace Agreement should be trained together and not separately,” suggested Lieutenant Colonel Lodovico. “Commanders should also be empowered to continue sensitizing their officers on the laws.”