UNMISS undertakes two-week patrol to investigate armed attacks along Western Equatoria roads
Recent ambushes on travelers along the main roads connecting Western Equatoria to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, have necessitated investigations by the United Nations peacekeeping mission here, UNMISS.
A recent two-week patrol, therefore, set up a temporary base in Mundri West to assess prevailing security conditions. The objective: To visit nearby areas and patrol around the county, thereby demonstrating the presence of Blue Helmets and building confidence among local communities who have been affected by these repeated attacks, specifically in Lui, Jumbo and Langiy villages.
“We need to be on the ground and speak to communities living here about the trouble they have been facing, so that our military peacekeepers can step up their protection activities at hostspots along the main highway,” revealed Thomas Bazawi from the mission’s Relief, Reintegration and Protection (RRP) section.
Speaking to members of the patrol team, local authorities at Jumbo village said that, while politically motivated violence in the area had greatly reduced, criminality was at an all-time high.
“We can’t be certain, but it is our guess that these attacks are being organized by a gang of criminals,” stated Colonel Tut Gew, commander of the local South Sudan People’s Defence Forces division.
While this claim could not be fully corroborated, what was clear to members of the visiting UNMISS patrol was that civilians living in these areas continue to feel threatened and fear for their lives.
“Our lives seem to be a prison of fear,” avers Kennedy Khamis, a traditional leader from Jumbo. “We have no freedom of movement; our women and children can’t step out after dusk. Though the civil wars have ended, we are still afraid,” he continued.
Local uniformed personnel have said that it is often difficult for them to respond immediately when they receive reports of such threats and attacks, as they do not have the capacity to send regular patrols to these locations.
For its part, UNMISS reiterated its commitment towards preventing violence and protecting civilians across South Sudan.
“We have travelled all this way because our primary objective as a mission is to make sure we can save lives and ensure all communities can peacefully coexist,” said Farayi Nyamayaro, Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS.
“There are challenges - we may not be able to predict the exact place where conflict or crime can start, but our aim is to protect people proactively and speedily. Now that we have heard from all of you, we will report to our headquarters and ensure that our peacekeepers will be present soon to help you,” he continued.
The patrol team comprised of members from the mission’s Human Rights and Civil Affairs Divisions as well as military observers; it was escorted by peacekeepers from Ethiopia.