Strengthening partnerships, protecting civilians: UNMISS patrol monitors progress of Quick Impact Projects
WESTERN EQUATORIA – While protecting civilians affected by conflict is the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s top priority, the UN Peacekeeping mission often steps in to address other urgent community needs through its Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme.
These are small-scale, low-budget infrastructural projects that, often, have long-term benefits for host communities.
Peacekeepers deployed to Western Equatoria recently undertook an integrated patrol to several eastern counties in the state—Maridi, Mundri, Mundri east, Mvolo and Lesi.
Their focus: To inspect progress made in actioning necessary QIPs in these areas and to evaluate the security situation.
As the patrol team made its way to landlocked Lesi and spoke with communities as well as the payam [administrative division] administrator, James Monday Tolo, poor road conditions, especially during the ongoing rainy season was the main issue raised.
“Lesi falls under Mvolo County but the road linking people here to the main county becomes flooded during the rainy season,” revealed Mr Tolo. “As a result, we lose all access to essential services and the main markets for almost five or six months in the year which leads to tremendous hardship for residents,” he explained.
Mr. Tolo also added that with a peace deal and a transitional government of national unity in place, many people who fled Lesi during the civil war have returned. However, the rains have made life difficult for new returnees as well.
Tensor Wilson, a resident with 11 children, added her voice to the discussions. “I am very happy to see UN peacekeepers among us and to tell you about the challenges we face as women and as mothers,” she stated. “The people of Lesi often feel completely isolated from the rest of the county when downpours begin. Women cannot access medical services and our children suffer. I hope UNMISS will work with the state government to improve our condition,” she continued.
Another important point raised by Ms. Wilson—the need for women to be actively involved in building peace. “The women and girls of Lesi suffered during the civil war earlier and from cattle raids now. With suffering comes wisdom and we are ready to do our best to shape a peaceful, prosperous future for our children,” she said eloquently.
Acting youth leader of Lesi, Wilson Rete, agreed with Ms. Wilson about the need to build social cohesion and came up with a solution: promoting peace through sport!
“Our social fabric has been destroyed by conflict between cattle keepers. To stop this young people must come together and there is no activity that promotes team spirit more than sports,” the young man averred passionately. “Now that more and more people are returning home, I request the UN Peacekeeping mission to help us with activities that build relationships. We used to play together earlier but nowadays many young people are idle, indulge in criminality; sports will help us convene, connect and rebuild our bonds.”
For his part, patrol leader Thomas Bazawi from the Mission’s Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section stated that these free-and-frank discussions have helped peacekeepers understand much of the hardships that the people of Lesi face every day.
“It is only when we speak with communities face-to-face that we get a thorough blueprint of what their daily lives are and how UNMISS can assist. One of the major suggestions we have been given is improving road access to Lesi and perhaps constructing a bridge over the river here which will enable communities to travel to the main Mvolo county throughout the year. Such interventions from our part will, in my opinion, reduce conflict and build an enduring peace,” said Mr. Bazawi.
The patrol team also evaluated the ongoing construction of a prison in Ibba county; a secondary school in Mundri east; a police post in Lesi and a primary school in Mvolo, respectively.