Last year, a sudden outbreak of violence led to massive loss of life and property, not to mention displaced tens of thousands in the greater Tambura region of Western Equatoria, South Sudan.
At the time, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) swiftly established a temporary operating base in Tambura given the urgent need to protect the conflict-affected.
Today, as calm and stability are gradually returning to Tambura, people who fled from their homes are still sheltering at the UNMISS base and under the watchful eye of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Blue Helmets; they are preparing for their second Christmas in this location.
“Despite the suffering and agony we went through, I am dancing joyfully,” said Asunta Ipai, a displaced person in Tambura. “It has been a traumatic time, but it is the season to be grateful for being alive.”
Philip Andrew, also displaced last year, agrees with Ms. Ipai. “UNMISS has saved our lives. We lost everything during the conflict, but peacekeepers gave us a space to establish ourselves temporarily and catch our breath. Today, we can see peace slowly coming back to Tambura and with that, there is a resurgence of hope among all of us that we can rebuild our lives. This alone is cause for celebration,” he stated with a smile.
UNMISS peacekeepers have been proactively patrolling in Tambura to deter any further violence and build trust and confidence among communities living here.
“I believe our presence, including our work in monitoring human rights violations, engaging communities in peace dialogues, joint efforts with national and international stakeholders to deescalate tensions during the peak of the crisis, plus facilitation of humanitarian assistance, has played a vital role in shoring up peace in Tambura,” revealed Thomas Bazawi, a Protection, Transition and Reintegration Officer from the UNMISS Field Office in the state.
Despite a return to relative normalcy, there is hesitation among many displaced people about returning to their original settlements.
“We are very appreciative of the efforts made by local authorities and international friends such as UNMISS and humanitarian partners,” averred Anita John who currently resides adjacent to the UNMISS temporary base.
“Thanks to all, we are able to visit our farms and villages and even venture out to buy necessities from the local market. But I think the events of last year are still fresh in our minds and we need more time before we can permanently return to our homes. Violence leaves scars not only physically but psychologically, after all,” she adds wistfully. “We want to make sure the guns remain silent.”
For its part, the UN Peacekeeping mission is actioning Quick Impact Projects that are designed to address urgent public needs through infrastructural repair and renovations, especially to schools which were destroyed by violence.
“We are doing everything in our power to help communities recover and are focused on helping create conditions that will ensure displaced populations feel empowered to voluntarily trace their steps homewards,” stated Mr. Bazawi.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).