Traditional leaders in Eastern Equatoria learn about their role in upholding human rights
Protecting and promoting human rights - along with preventing, documenting, and reporting abuses of them - are key parts of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS. Recently, more than 50 traditional leaders in Eastern Equatoria learnt more about what role they can play to that effect, not least when it comes to dealing with cases of domestic and frequently gender-based violence.
“As leaders, we are accountable to the citizens. We have the duty to educate them on human rights, and to report issues that we become aware of,” said Becky Ayaa, Chairperson of the state’s Human Right Commission, while acknowledging that “certain forms of violence” are still common in rural communities.
The two-day forum was dedicated to what the Local Government Act and other legal frameworks say about how human rights, including conflict related violations of them, can be monitored and handled at sub-national levels.
“We (traditional chiefs) have to introduce to our people to the laws in place to protect universal rights. That kind of awareness-raising is particularly important as our country’s transitional constitution was not well understood at the grassroots level,” said Aldo Ojara Aquilino, Paramount Chief of Magwi County.
Workshops like the one in Torit can, according to UNMISS Human Rights Officer Anthony Nwapa, reduce such confusion, strengthen knowledge about the substantial right not to be subjected to gender-based violence, and have an almost immediate effect on peace and security.
“Respecting human rights is fundamental for nation-building. To achieve that, we must all work better together for success,” he said.