UNMISS, Warrap state officials visit Tonj and call for peaceful negotiations to end conflict

UNMISS and Warrap state authorities recently visited conflict-ridden Tonj to listen to concerns raised by feuding communities and urge for peaceful reconciliation of disputes. Photo by Zejin Yin/UNMISS.

17 Oct 2021

UNMISS, Warrap state officials visit Tonj and call for peaceful negotiations to end conflict

Zejin Yin

Ongoing conflict between armed groups in Warrap, particularly in Tonj East and North has caused huge harm to communities.

Innocent civilians have been injured and killed, properties destroyed, while thousands of families have been displaced.

In the most recent clashes between armed groups in Kacuat, Marial Lou and Luanyjang, some 35 people were killed, 80 injured and hundreds displaced from their homes.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with state authorities from Warrap, therefore visited impacted areas in Tonj North and East to review the security situation and appeal for a dialogue-based, peaceful resolution to escalating tensions in the area.

The persistent fighting in the region over the past few months is characterized by a cycle of cattle raids and revenge attacks as well as movement obstruction, which has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

“Roadblocks have hindered humanitarian assistance from reaching those who need it the most,” reveals Aguer Madut, the community representative for Luanyjang, Romich and Tonj East, while speaking to the visiting delegation.

“People are dying of malnutrition, disease, flooding and now, an escalation in violence,” he continues, adding a plea to the government and international partners to airlift necessary supplies to suffering communities.

In Kacuat, the visiting delegation heard a similar story. “Civilians were the target of armed attacks,” states Rebecca Kual, a resident here. “Schools and health facilities have been damaged and we were looted of our possessions,” she adds.

All parties to the conflict also claimed to fear retaliatory attacks.

Anastasie Mukangarambe, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Kuajok, emphasized the need nature for feuding parties to cooperate with ongoing government efforts to bring about a negotiated peace through amicable dialogue.

“Retaliation and violence will only exacerbate the suffering of innocent civilians,” said Ms. Mukangarambe. “As UNMISS, we are here to ensure your safety and convey your concerns to national authorities, but we urge you to cooperate with the state government’s efforts to build peace, remove road blockades and resolve all issues.”

Mr. Agok Ayar, state Minister for Youth, Culture, and Sports, called for affected communities to trust and invest in the government's efforts to find sustainable solutions to the dispute.

For its part, despite huge logistical challenges due to heavy flooding, UNMISS established a temporary operating base in Marial Lou in early September to provide a protective presence and restore calm.

The UN Peacekeeping mission is also stepping up grassroots-level outreach, helping bring together youth, cattle-keepers, political leaders and security agencies, to discuss the challenges they face and to find solutions to the end the cycle of cattle raiding, revenge attacks, and intentional killings and injuring of civilians.

The objective is to build much-needed trust and confidence and address key conflict drivers such as such as border and land disputes, housing, land and property rights, tensions over pastures and water points, as well as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons among civilians.

Furthermore, UNMISS is providing technical support and capacity building to rule of law institutions and is liaising closely with the Chief Justice on the deployment of judges and mobile courts to areas affected by violence.