UNMISS conducts air patrol to investigate recent clashes and support reconciliation in Romich
An injured young man lies on out in the open on a dirty mattress. The inside of a medical clinic has been torched. Guns rest against the wall of a nearby building and damaged armoured tanks lie abandoned in flooded fields.
This is the scene in the village of Romich a week after heavy fighting broke out between members of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces and armed youth. There is now a fragile sense of calm but also a lingering tension that the situation could easily become volatile again.
A team of peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan arrived in the village on an air patrol to assess the security situation after several previous attempts to get there by road were thwarted by heavy flooding.
Also on-board the UNMISS helicopter is a delegation led by the Governor of Warrap State, Bona Panek Biar, who says he is committed to working with local military forces and the community to restore calm and prevent further violence erupting in the area which is about 100 kilometers east of Tonj town.
Hundreds of people gather to meet the delegation. Local officials brief the Warrap delegation and peacekeeping team on the situation.
Romich Executive-Director, Mabior Adel Makol, estimates that 148 people were killed during the fighting, including soldiers, armed youth, and civilians. “Some people died afterwards in Kuel-cok clinic. One girl we found in the grass and a woman was found dead in the house,” he explains.
Human Rights officers from UNMISS who are also on the patrol will use this reporting as well as testimony from other officials, military, youth and community members in an attempt to verify the actual number of casualties.
The losses for this community as a result of the violence are catastrophic. The local market has been looted and some shops burnt to the ground. The local health center was also heavily damaged during the intense firefight.
“Up until now, we had enough medicines because we got a three month supply from Juba but the drugs were all burnt because a bomb came through the facility so we no longer have any drugs to treat people,” said Community Health Department officer, Kerubino Alony.
This community is tired of losing loved ones through violence. They were just beginning to rebuild their lives after five years of civil war and the fresh outbreak of violence threatens that recovery.
To support the community, UNMISS will establish a temporary base in Romich within the next few days and conduct regular patrolling to deter violence and provide a protective presence for civilians. The Mission will also continue to support locally led efforts to restore calm, encourage reconciliation and build peace.