UNMISS, UNDP hold workshop on curbing small arms proliferation in Warrap
WARRAP – Following years of civil war, South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has been grappling with curbing civilian access to small arms.
With elections slated for next year and surging conflict across many of the country’s 10 states, concrete measures are required for successful civilian disarmament, given that similar exercises in the past haven’t yielded desired results.
Given the context, in Warrap, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) recently held a three-day workshop to raise awareness on this critical issue in Warrap state.
“Our main concern is that disarmament cannot be done piecemeal,” said William Wol Mayom, state Minister for Information. “For civilians in Warrap to surrender illicit weapons willingly, such comprehensive disarmament efforts must take place in all four bordering states—Northern and Western Bahr El Ghazal, Unity and Lakes.”
Such pertinent and frank conversations were the norm at the workshop funded by Saving Lives Entity, colloquially referred to as SALIENT, a UN mechanism implemented in partnership with the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and financially housed within the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
The SALIENT initiative is dedicated to supporting Member States in tackling armed violence as well as illicit small arms and light weapons as part of a comprehensive approach to sustainable security and development.
Some 100 participants—youth, women, community leaders, the elderly—were sensitized to the dangers of small arms in the hand of civilians, especially their negative impact on socio-economic and lasting peace.
Vitally, government officials and uniformed personnel from the South Sudan National Police Service were educated on their roles and responsibilities in any disarmament process, given that they are frontline actors.
“We will prepare for a new cycle of peaceful disarmament, by urging community members themselves to take responsibility for regulating weapons and registering gun ownership. I’d like to reassure everybody that simply registering a weapon you own does not imply that authorities will confiscate them arbitrarily. Our objective is to legitimize weapons possession,” explained John Chuti, a Warrant Officer stationed at the SSNPS Headquarters in Warrap and one of the training facilitators.
“For this first step to be successful we must collaborate with communities and their leaders. We cannot do this alone,” he stated emphatically.
The role of women was another discussion point, as facilitators urged women officers from the SSNPS to liaise with women from communities across the state.
“Our women police officers are vital in mediating with communities and on this issue, they must use their good offices to encourage women from Warrap to spread the word on voluntary disarmament and its long-term benefits,” stated Major Aliza Bil, the SSNPS Women’s Network Adviser.
In the past the state government of Warrap has passed a security bill where peaceful, voluntary disarmament is a key element and Minister Mayom expressed his appreciation for the support received from the UN family.
“The UN has greatly assisted us in bridging gaps and raising awareness about the importance of curbing small arms. We stand ready to implement all necessary peace and security measures, pon guidance by the national government, to make the lives of Warrap residents more prosperous,” said the Minister.
For his part, Adewuyi Adewumi, Acting Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Kuajok Field Office, also highlighted the importance of partnerships.
“Small arms and light weapons threaten social cohesion. As South Sudan approaches a crucial time in its democratic transition with the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections, we must work together to reduce violence and ensure security conditions are optimum for citizens to head to the polls. Disarmament is, therefore, a necessary step that everybody must embrace,” he averred.