“Engagements between military personnel and communities in Ikotos is a vital process that we urge the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to help us arrange,” stated Grace Abalang, a member of the National Legislative Assembly representing Ikotos county in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state.
“For true peace to prevail, there must be trust between our country’s civilian population and uniformed actors,” she added.
Ms. Abalang was speaking on the margins of an event held jointly by the State Ministry of Peacebuilding and a host of partners, including UNMISS, the UN Development Programme, Norwegian Church Aid and the Women’s Agency for Progress (WAPO).
The focus of this community outreach: Using culture and music to generate a sense of shared identity among 2,000 community members and local authorities who were in attendance.
“We have attended numerous peace conferences across Ikotos and neighbouring areas such as Isoke, Chahari, and, Chorokol,” reminisced Odong Joseph, the county’s paramount chief.
“However, the core problem has always remained—we couldn’t agree on a joint set of peace resolutions among ourselves. This has definitely negatively impacted all of us,” he revealed.
“But since we are all gathered here today, I think we should use this occasion to commit to simple but effective measures that will benefit everybody,” added the community leader.
Chief among the recommendations that emerged from this vibrant, informative, and interactive event was the need for military personnel to relocate from residential areas and marketplaces where there is a high civilian population.
“We still see soldiers occupying spaces in the main market,” said the state’s Deputy Governor, Mary Alphones Lodira.
“We urge them to relocate to army barracks, as was agreed in earlier months, and deploy on a rotational basis so that every resident feels safe around them and they can protect us better,” she emphasized.
For his part, Francis Shuei Diu, a Civil Affairs Officer with the UNMISS Field Office in Torit, urged all parties to work together in resolving outstanding issues.
“With all the challenges South Sudan is facing, especially the repercussions of climate change, we call for collective actions for peace so that every citizen, not just in Ikotos, but across the country can look forward to a brighter future,” he averred.
UNMISS continues to engage community members from this conflict-affected county, their traditional leaders and youth in their quest for lasting harmony.
The event was hosted to mark last month’s International Day of Peace.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).