UN Peace Chief visits conflict and flood-affected Malakal in South Sudan
Flying across the Upper Nile, it’s easy to see the impact of flooding on the local population.
Many areas are water-logged which is creating additional hardship for people already suffering as the result of sporadic fighting between community militia groups as well as persistent cattle-raiding. People have lost their crops, livestock and their homes and don’t have the income to support themselves, let alone rebuild their lives.
As part of a four-day peace mission to South Sudan, the Under-Secretary-General for United Nations Peace Operations visited the area to see first-hand the impact on communities.
“In the State, the situation has improved, but there are areas where there has been tension and even fighting., said Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. “There is room for more progress regarding security so that the people, particularly those civilians in the UN Protection of Civilians camp, can move more freely and with more sense of safety and we will be working on this together.
The USG discussed the dire situation with humanitarians and spoke with displaced families living in the Protection of Civilians site (POC) which is the only UN-protected camp yet to transition to a conventional displacement site under the responsibility of the Government. The situation is currently considered too insecure to move this process forward.
“One of the challenges that we are facing at the protection site in Malakal is systematic rampant insecurity which results in the killing of innocent civilians,” said POC Chairperson, James Akoch Ayiik Adwok.
“I want to ask the delegation that came all the way from New York under the leadership of Under-Secretary-General to look deep into that issue and to discuss with authorities in Upper Nile State to apprehend the preparators of these atrocities.”
The Deputy Governor described the situation is calm, and said people are returning back to their homes either within Malakal town or more remote villages. But driving through the town, many homes are still abandoned, and markets are quiet which demonstrates a reluctance among people to move back to the area.
“The choice to come back is free and voluntary for our citizens,” said Upper Nile Acting Governor, James Tor Monbuony Kor. “Our commitment as the state government is to ensure that we have the protection for each and every citizen regardless of their background, regardless of their political affiliation, regardless of their ethnicity.”
The Acting Governor said recent forums hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan was supporting reconciliation, peacebuilding, resilience, and recovery efforts. Local police are also receiving training and technical support from UNPOL to build their capacity to tackle crime.
“The flooding has added a lot of challenges to what the population is facing and, of course, we want to be helpful,” said Mr. Lacroix. “So, we are here to say that the UN will remain committed to the State, to Malakal and the surrounding region, and will continue to do our best to be supportive.”
That support includes the protection of civilians by peacekeepers, facilitating reconciliation and peace talks, and ensuring that vulnerable communities get the help they need to rebuild their lives.