UNMISS protection site in Juba re-designated as a conventional displacement camp
Tens of thousands of people fled to the United Nations base in Juba when conflict erupted in South Sudan in 2013. The peacekeeping mission opened its gates and gave them sanctuary in what are known as Protection of Civilians sites. Many lives were saved as a result.
Seven years later, the situation has changed with political violence significantly reducing following a ceasefire, peace agreement and formation of a new unity government.
POC residents move freely between the camps and towns to work, shop and go to school. Many say they stay at the sites to access humanitarian aid rather than because of protection concerns.
In response, UNMISS has gradually transitioned some sites to conventional displacement camps under Government control, including in Wau and Bor.
“I am pleased to report that, so far, this process has gone smoothly,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, at a press conference in Juba.
“The displaced communities have been open to the change despite some initial concerns and are now working closely with local authorities and the South Sudan National Police Service – who are being strongly supported by UNPOL – along with continued services provided by humanitarians.”
The latest site to be re-designated is in the capital Juba, after a long, careful planning process with humanitarians and in consultation with national and local government, security services, and the displaced community.
“The Government now has sovereign responsibility for the sites as it does with many other IDP camps across the country,” said David Shearer. “Our UNPOL officers are co-located with local police at the checkpoint outside the new IDP camps and we are planning to expand the police post to provide better law enforcement for all residents in the area.”
UNMISS facilitated the signing of an agreement between former POC residents and neighbouring communities that they will live together peacefully, and the Mission is assisting with trust and confidence-building meetings between the IDPs, security forces, and political leaders.
The Government has committed to ensuring no-one will be forced to leave the camps and humanitarian services will continue.
The re-designation has allowed UNMISS to gradually withdraw troops from static duties at the sites where there is no threat so they can be redeployed to conflict hotspots where people’s lives are in real danger.
“Our approach to the protection of civilians is about being proactive, about being nimble, and being robust,” said David Shearer.
“We have a responsibility to protect those who need protection the most. That means we need to relocate our troops and staff who facilitate reconciliation and peacebuilding into areas of tension, and hopefully address that tension before conflict erupts.”
Throughout the coming dry season, peacekeepers will be located in new temporary bases and carry out long duration patrols to places like Manyabol, Likongule, Duk Padiat, Yuai, and Waat where tensions between communities are high.
Troops and civilian staff will work together with local communities to deter violence, promote reconciliation, and build peace so families get the opportunity they deserve to rebuild their lives.