“Our relationship with authorities is tense, especially with uniformed actors such as the police or military actors,” revealed Agnes Macca, a participant in a two-day forum organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The aim of the event: Addressing the impact of political and security upheavals on the lives and livelihoods of local communities as well as ways to improve relationships between uniformed personnel and civilians.
This was one of three workshops held in Ezo, Mvolo, and Ibba counties by UNMISS.
In each location, some 50 participants were drawn from local authorities, organized forces, and traditional leaders and they discussed key protection issues; the UN Peacekeeping mission’s mandate; the need to foster coexistence and social cohesion, and, above all, boosting community trust and confidence in South Sudan’s security sector.
In Mvolo, Joyce James, a traditional leader advocated for more women to receive such awareness-raising sessions.
A similar view was raised at the workshop in Ezo by Joyce Nelson, another community leader.
“Women and girls have been most severely affected by conflict in South Sudan. I’m glad to receive this sensitization and I will use what I’ve learned to educate my fellow women on our rights during protection emergencies,” she stated.
For Ismail Wanja, a 56-year-old businessman in Mvolo, protection matters are vital.
“As businesspeople and entrepreneurs, organized forces are essential for us to convene, connect and trade. We want a respectful relationship with them, not one based on fear, so we can work together to build peace and prosperity,” he averred.
Captain Isaiah Simon, a participant from the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, agreed.
“Our duty is to protect the civilians against any threat of violence. We should do our best to make them feel safe and secure,” he explained.
For his part, Tahiru Ibrahim, an UNMISS Protection, Transition and Reintegration Officer in the UNMISS Field Office in Yambio, was delighted by the active participation in all three iterations of the workshop.
“We are grateful to state authorities for supporting this initiative. Such dialogues are critical to establish a lasting peace across South Sudan,” he added.
At the end of these fora, a civil-military protection group has been formed to address protection concerns and create, in partnership with local authorities, a harmonious environment for all residents.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).