UNMISS engages with communities of Magwi County to resolve persisting conflicts in Nimule and Mugali
EASTERN EQUATORIA - “As you can see our state government has deployed organized forces to protect people returning home. So, I have been able to resume work,” said the Acting Administrator of Mugali Payam (administrative division), speaking to the visiting team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS.
Although only seven households have returned to the area after it was deserted following recent violent conflicts between cattle herders and the local community, local authorities are present, as are government troops.
“My community left the area because of fear. I expect them to return because there is no threat of insecurity anymore,” said Ajoni Azzo Joseph, Head Chief of Mugali.
Almost 1,900 households from the area are still staying at camps for internally displaced people in Anzara in Nimule Payam. Others left the country for refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda or are living with relatives in Nimule town. Many are not yet feeling safe enough to come home.
“I am not ready to go back to Mugali because the trauma of the abuses and torture I witnessed is still in my mind,” says one of the internally displaced mothers, who prefers to remain anonymous.
In the violence which took place in the payams of Mugali and Nimule, nearly ten people lost their lives, countless women were abused, and crops and infrastructure were destroyed, including a health centre in Avumadrici, which also had its drugs looted.
“The forces can only protect the payam headquarters. What about those who want to return to the villages? There are not enough troops to cover those areas,” says one of the female chiefs in Mugali.
Eastern Equatoria’s state government and a team from the national government agreed to the demands of farmers to remove intruding cattle to enable agriculture, but communities fear that the cattle keepers will return.
“The cattle were removed by force, so the people fear that herders will seek revenge,” explained Richard Mele Moses, Payam Administrator for Pageri and Nimule.
“The displaced persons are yearning to go back home, but the government needs guarantee proper security for them to settle peacefully,” said Alira William, the head of chiefs in Nimule Payam headquarters.
The UN peacekeeping mission carried out a joint patrol to the affected areas to show its presence, assess the level of threat and engage the feuding communities on peaceful ways to resolve the conflict and protect civilians.
“The concerns of the communities will be reported to the mission’s management and the state government. We will explain how we intend to play our role in protecting civilians and resolving the prevailing issues,” said Abdul Kamara, a Civil Affairs Officer. “We also met a women’s group in Nimule who requested us to deploy more staff to the area to follow up on claims of violations and abuses taking place there.”