While most of the world has been busy with friends and family over the holiday period, escalating tensions fueled by Lohilai and Lohiri communities have taken a toll on those residing in Omuruo, Eastern Equatoria.
Hundreds of community members abandoned their homes and properties in fear of their lives.
“Almost everyone in and around Omoruo have been displaced and are fearful of returning to their homes because they are, unfortunately, keenly aware of how quickly conflict can erupt, leading to massive loss of life,” revealed Tadeo Oliha Pacifico, acting chief of Omuruo, to a visiting patrol from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The sudden outbreak of clashes in Omoruo took place two weeks ago, when the village was attacked by neighbours from Lohilai and Lohiri, which reportedly left many injured.
Violence erupted after both sides accused each other of orchestrating targeted killings and road ambushes in past months.
“People are nervous of using the Torit-Omoruo-Lohilai road and we urge the government to step in and resolve our disputes so that peace can return and our communities can resume normal life,” said Dominic Oreste, a Lohilai youth leader to patrolling peacekeepers.
The conflict has affected normal traffic along this important supply route, which was already beleaguered with ambushes making travel unsafe.
For its part, the UN Peacekeeping mission has intensified patrols in the area.
“We are here because we want to encourage all of you to embrace dialogue and peacefully reconcile your differences,” said Francis Jeremiah, a Civil Affairs Officer from UNMISS.
“Such conflicts disrupt trade, prevent the sick from reaching healthcare providers in time, and take a disproportionate toll on women and children,” he added. “The only productive way forward is through dialogue; you all have a collective responsibility to nurture a sustained peace with your
“We have come here to talk to you so that you hold peace so dear to you and to your neighbors without you there will not be South Sudan, you people have been known of peace this misunderstanding should end here and you reconcile,” said Francis Jeremiah, UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer in Eastern Equatoria.
Currently, calm has been restored in the area despite properties being vandalized, thanks to efforts by the state government and international friends such as UNMISS.
“Our role as the government is to make sure that these communities reconcile, the roads are safe and such attacks do not take place again,” said Angela Quitino, the area Member of Parliament from Eastern Equatoria’s State Legislative Assembly.
For some 1,500 displaced civilians, however, it is still not time to return to their original settlements. But with the burgeoning resolve for peace among all involved parties, hope is alive for them to eventually trace their steps homewards and rebuild their lives.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).