“Peace is vital for a calm, prosperous, and safe life,” says Joseph Jame, Chief of Panyume payam, an administrative division located within Morobo county of South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state.
As this young nation enters a critical period in its history with preparations ongoing for its first-ever free, inclusive, and peaceful elections, protecting civilians remains a major challenge, as does ensuring every individual’s rights are upheld, especially their right to vote.
These were overarching sentiments at a day-long training in Panyume, facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The focus of the workshop: To identify critical protection risks and threats against civilians such as sexual violence, looting and robbery, destruction of properties and farms, among others.
Some 60 participants from in and around Panyume—area chiefs, women’s representatives, the elderly, youth leaders—held free and frank discussions on issues directly impacting them.
Festo Dada, a resident of Panyume, shared personal experiences at the forum.
“Here, women and girls live in perpetual fear. A girl cannot leave her house without being cogniscent that she can easily fall prey to sexual violence, while men get attacked by armed actors who steal cattle and land.
Such loss of property, according to Mr. Dada, is the norm, as is violence against women and, not to mention, extortion of money at illegal checkpoints.
His comments touch a chord with almost everybody at the forum.
“All our leaders must work together to silence the guns, end intercommunal violence, and, importantly, gain trust and confidence so that all South Sudanese who have been impacted by conflict can look forward to a brighter future,” stated Joseph Juma, Chief of Panyume.
Additionally, Mr. Juma said he believed timely elections, as mentioned in the Revitalized Peace Agreement, remains the key opportunity for citizens to have their voices heard. “Those who want to ascend to or remain in power have a chance to do so by contesting in the forthcoming elections,” he averred, calling on the international community and friends of South Sudan to support the country. “We are tired of war,” he said simply but emphatically.
For his part, Arthur Beingana, a Human Rights Officer with UNMISS, emphasized that for peace and security to prevail, every South Sudanese must do their part.
“We must all stand up, speak up to protect, promote, defend, implement and enjoy human rights,” he urged, a view endorsed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-iO) Commander in Panyume, Brigadier-General Isaac L. Amunga.
This interactive discussion, organized by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section, concluded with a list of recommendations for county leadership, primarily the requirement to engage with armed actors and improve civil-military relationships.
Participants were also briefed about the UNMISS mandate.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).