Traditional leaders in Lopit call on UNMISS to reconcile feuding communities in Lafon, Eastern Equatoria
Cattle raids, revenge killings and land disputes have led to a recurring cycle of conflict in the remote Lopit area of Lafon in Eastern Equatoria.
People living in Lohutok and Ibahure payams (administrative divisions) are perhaps worst affected by this ongoing violence, as a patrol team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) discovered.
“We are tired of the constant fighting,” stated Pasqual Osenger, a traditional leader from Lohutok, to visiting peacekeepers. “It has left us without security, affected our crops and livestock and our general quality of life. We request UNMISS to ensure that this conflict between our communities ends once and for all.”
Lack of proper rule of law and security institutions in the area have, unfortunately, empowered perpetrators.
While speaking to the patrolling peacekeepers, community leaders stressed the need for established law and order mechanisms as well as reconciliation activities here. “To keep the peace between us, we believe we need a proper security system and well-demarcated areas where both communities can coexist peacefully,” added Mr. Osenger.
UNMISS has made several efforts in the past to reconcile the communities of these two payams. However, the peacekeeping mission hasn’t had much success in establishing a sustained peace.
“The UN has tried many times to resolve issues between us,” revealed a youth representative. “However, because of our own long history and disagreements between our leaders, no agreement has held till now. We seem to relapse into conflict at the slightest issue and we are aware that this must stop.”
For its part, UNMISS, through its Civil Affairs Division, has re-started engaging with communities across South Sudan in general, and Lafon, in particular, to sensitize them on the provisions contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
“There can be no development without peace. They are two sides of the same coin,” revealed Marko Miljevic, a Civil Affairs Officer.
“We are, therefore, on the ground, engaging with feuding communities to further this understanding. Everybody has a role to play in building durable peace across this young nation. The people of Lafon are no exception. We are here to help them as they put aside the divisions of the past and work together towards a more collegiate way of life,” he added.
Humanitarian partners also accompanied the UNMISS patrol team to Lafon to ensure that residents receive the assistance they need to forge a prosperous, conflict-free future.