UNMISS overcomes huge logistical challenges to reach vulnerable communities in Romich on Human Rights Day
For the people of Romich, there is really not much to celebrate on Human Rights Day.
For months, they have suffered from communal violence and retaliatory attacks between communities in the north and east of Tonj. Hundreds of people, including women and children, have been killed in the conflict. Thousands fled their homes, their properties and crops were burnt to the ground, and their meagre belongings were pillaged.
Schools and clinics were closed, women and children sought refuge in the bushes in fear for their lives, and humanitarians were prevented from reaching those in need due to regional insecurity and roadblocks. Marial Lou, which served as the region’s humanitarian hub, was nearly completely deserted.
In response to these threats, UNMISS established a temporary base in Marial Lou and facilitated the signing of a peace resolution by the three conflicted communities in early October. The mission also assisted state authorities in holding peace consultations with the affected communities. These initiatives have gradually instilled a sense of confidence and security in the area.
After months of obstruction, roadblocks between Kachuat and Romich were dismantled in early December, allowing humanitarian assistance to finally reach the area.
The UNMISS Field Office in Kuajok was also able to break through by road for the first time in nearly 11 months, having previously only been able to access the location by air. This achievement coincided with the observation of Human Rights Day, a particularly poignant occasion given the significant abuses and violations that have been experienced in this area.
It was a chance for peacekeepers and people of Romich to come together to reinforce the need for respect among all communities and to make their commitment to the local peace agreement a reality.
“This is the first time that action to commemorate Human Rights Day has occurred in this location. We are overjoyed to know that we are not left out,” said Romich resident, Mario Magong.
Under this year’s theme, “Reducing inequities, strengthening human rights”, the commemoration event included formal speeches and a series of cultural performances by students and women.
About 1000 people participated, including community leaders, paramount chiefs, livestock camp leaders, youth and women delegates, members from local civil society organizations, and county-level education officials.
“The long-running communal bloodshed must come to an end. We are the ones that give men and fighters their life, yet they have now begun to murder us,” said women’s leader Akuc Aleu, in an emotional speech.
“Our girls are compelled to marry at an early age and our children do not attend school. We truly require peace. Human rights need to apply to everyone, including women and children.”
For his part, Bernard Mugisha, UNMISS Kuajok Human Rights Officer, reiterated that all people are born equal and have the same rights. Thus, we should all work together for the common benefit of our communities.
“We are all equal, no one is superior to another, and we must all work together to safeguard human rights and bring peace to our communities,” he appealed.