Torit civil society urges government to prioritize the needs of its people
Civil society in Torit is calling on the government to put the South Sudanese people’s needs at the forefront of the new peace deal signed in Addis Ababa just weeks ago.
Community leaders had the opportunity to express their views on the revitalized peace agreement freely, amidst International Day of Peace celebrations organized by the Torit State Peace Commission and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
Emmanuel Atilio a civil society member in Torit, stressed the importance of taking a people-centered approach to implementing the revitalized peace agreement.
“Let the government look at the suffering of civilians because the government can stand with civilians. Civilians are the key to the peace agreement,” Atilio said, adding, “Let the government address the demands of the civilians and the citizens of South Sudan. Then let them act according to that will.”
Prioritizing the needs of citizens is particularly important in the Eastern Equatoria region, where tens of thousands of civilians remain in refugee camps in neighboring Uganda. Many, especially those who call Magwi and Ayaci counties home, are still apprehensive to return, citing lack of shelter, little economic opportunity, hunger and mistrust as obstacles hindering them from crossing the border back into South Sudan.
The Mayor of Torit Municipal Council, Juliana Momoyi, lamented the state of South Sudanese refugees, emphasizing their return as central to the peace process.
“Of recent I came from the neighboring countries in East Africa. Our people who are there are not healthy. To live in someone else’s country, you will never enjoy the peace,” Momoyi explained, emphasizing that a peaceful return of internally displaced persons and refugees’ is essential for participatory and inclusive nation building, and a cornerstone of a lasting peace.
“Our people who are in refugee camps are not free. They want to come back home….so that together we can build and develop our beloved country,” said German Charles Ojok, Torit State Peace Commissioner.
Furthermore, community members and officials seized the occasion of International Peace Day to highlight key challenges to the peace process in Torit, among them child abduction. In the last several months, a dozen children have been abducted in the Torit area alone, alarming citizens and authorities alike.
International Day of Peace celebrations at Freedom Square presented a good opportunity for Peace Commissioner Ojok to raise the issue in front of an audience of top State officials.
“The constant child abduction in Torit West County, Torit- Juba road, and Jebel Malok remains a problem. I therefore appeal to our state government to mobilize or constitute a committee to meet our people at the national level to voice out their concerns toward this challenging issue,” he stated, requesting authorities to take concrete action.
The United Nations Mission in South Soudan has been helping to build capacity within the country’s institutions, including by providing training to the national police and judicial officers, building facilities that would make it easier for civilians to seek assistance, and carrying out patrols that give them a sense of security and confidence.