UNMISS builds child protection capacities among SSPDF personnel
WARRAP – As its first post-independence elections fast approach, South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is working to enhance child protection in conflict-affected areas.
It’s ally in this endeavour: the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)!
The UN Peacekeeping mission recently held interactive workshops in two key locations across Warrap state for members of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF).
The aim: To reinforce full implementation of the Comprehensive Action Plan signed in February 2020 which seeks to end and prevent all grave violations against children by all parties to the conflict.
Some 40 SSPDF personnel deployed to Kirik, a payam [administrative division] in Tonj North, who, historically, have been mired in a tense relationship with communities, participated in a two-day capacity building workshop to enhance their child protection abilities.
“This training by UNMISS marks a new chapter in our approach to handling civilian interactions, especially safeguarding children,” remarked the payam administrator, William Deng, during his opening speech.
For his part, Kerbino Malual, SSPDF commander and workshop participant, reflected on past incidents and was optimistic about a more productive relationship with Kirik residents soon.
“This initiative is pivotal in strengthening our relationship with communities. Our priority is their protection and we are here to help uphold their rights. We have tried in the past to build better synergies but now we understand our roles and responsibilities much more,” he stated.
Training sessions covered topics such as the UNMISS child protection mandate, the rights of children and the six grave violations, the immediate need to release all minors from military service, gender-based violence, as well as other vital aspects of the Comprehensive Action Plan.
Similarly, in Matiel, Gogrial East, a workshop on providing security to civilians—especially children—amid ongoing tensions, took place for SSPDF officers located in Lietnhom, again 40 in number.
“The insights and knowledge from this UNMISS-facilitated workshop are invaluable for us to be operationally sound and protect the most vulnerable, such as our children who are the future of this country,” said Brigadier General Makuac Mabior. “We are committed to upholding the Action Plan and shall trickle down what we have learned to all our colleagues who couldn’t attend the sessions,” he added.
Additionally, Brigadier Mabior emphasized the importance of enhancing military professionalism and fostering peaceful community relations. Expanding on his commitment, he added, 'We've gained a deeper understanding of the crucial work carried out by UNMISS and other UN organizations. I want to assure you that our barracks will not only remain open to you but will actively welcome your presence and collaboration. This partnership is essential for us to continue developing our skills and understanding, thereby ensuring that we can better serve and protect our community.'
For Joseph Deng, an UNMISS representative, such advocacy is important.
“Our efforts through these trainings are part of a larger strategy to help South Sudan build lasting peace and have a spotless human rights record. Protecting children lies at the heart of protecting civilians and we remain dedicated to working with the SSPDF and communities to ensure a secure environment for all,” he averred passionately.
More such sensitizations are planned across Warrap in coming weeks.