UNMISS chief pledges support to develop Bahr-el-Ghazal region and increase UNPOL presence
Road repairs, an increased presence of UN police, the establishment of trade-boosting crossing points along the border with Sudan, and plans for a mobile court during the upcoming, conflict-inducing cattle migration – these were key issues discussed by David Shearer, Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, with Governors and citizens of the country’s largely peaceful Bahr-el-Ghazal region during a recent visit to three South Sudanese states.
”We currently have some extra engineering capacity to rebuild roads. You will be having much better access to Juba and to the border with Sudan, so that there can be more trade,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said in Wau, a town that will also become better connected with nearby Raja and the important towns of Aweil, Kuajok and Rumbek, further boosting commerce in the region.
Mr. Shearer stressed, however, that such developments will only be possible if the peacekeeping mission’s engineering contingents are granted security and freedom of movement where their work is needed.
“If we can’t move, we can’t fix the roads,” he stated.
After awarding UN medals to 861 Bangladeshi male and female peacekeepers based in Wau and Kuajok, Mr. Shearer toured an ecologically sound and money-saving project: a solar panel farm installed at the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Wau.
By means of a one-off investment of 2.3 million dollars, the solar panels represent not only the UN vision to minimize greenhouse gas emissions but also an annual saving of 1.8 million dollars, as they generate enough electricity to replace four fuel-powered generators.
Mr. Shearer also revealed that plans are underway to install a mobile court in the area ahead of the cattle migration taking place every year during the dry season. This is significant as mass movements of semi-nomadic cattle herders frequently lead to clashes and disputes with grain-growing farmers that require proactive mediation to not escalate into violent conflict.
”These mobile courts will actually hold people accountable for their actions. It’s also an opportunity for everybody, nomads and pastoralists, to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful cattle migration season ,” explained Mr. Shearer.
In Aweil, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General praised the prevailing peace in Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State. He urged Governor Tong Akeen Ngor and the state government to make the most of such favourable conditions by improving or constructing roads and building schools and healthcare facilities.
Mr. Shearer assured the Governor that citizens can count on the assistance of UNMISS to establish crossing points along the South Sudan-Sudan border and to strengthen the state’s police and judiciary system.
“Border posts will increase trade, as goods will be cheaper and that will benefit everybody. We are also looking at providing a greater degree of support to policing across the country, particularly here,” Mr. Shearer said, adding that prosecutors and courts are also set to benefit from these initiatives.
Another important issue that the UNMISS Head spoke about was the ongoing gradual transition of UN Protection of Civilians sites across South Sudan into more conventional camps for internally displaced people, under the sovereign control of the Government of South Sudan.
“Humanitarian aid will continue and nobody will be forced to leave,” said Mr. Shearer, “The UNMISS mandate specifically tasks us to protect all civilians across this country; redeploying our peacekeepers from static duties at protection sites to conflict hotspots will enable us to make sure people in imminent danger are safe and secure. This transition also allows displaced people no longer living under the shadow of violence a chance to return to their homes and rebuild their lives,” he added.
In Kuajok, the third and final stop of his three-state tour, Mr. Shearer’s message remained the same: pledges of road repair work and an increased presence of UN police in Warrap State.
“For us, roads are the real priority. Tarseal roads are essential for travel and transport; this is how then you have goods going from one place to another. Selling and buying creates prosperity, money comes in and jobs get created and peace comes as well,” he declared, adding that his second priority is to send more UN police officers to the state.
On his part, Warrap State Governor Bona Panek Biar expressed his appreciation for the work carried out by the peacekeeping mission, saying that the state, with the support of peacekeepers, has been able to contain intercommunal conflicts in the greater Tonj area. “UNMISS and all the UN agencies have been very supportive of the government and the people of Warrap State,” he said.