Every year, without fail, the rainy season in South Sudan leads to a severe deterioration in road conditions as well as flooding. The impact on residents of remote areas across the country cannot be understated. Take the example of communities living in Kassengor, Kuron and Kauto, located in the extreme east, on the border with Pibor, of Eastern Equatoria. The nearest town is Kapoeta; as the rainfall begins, roads become virtually impassable and people living here need to travel for a week to shop for basic necessities. “The incessant rain makes moving out of our immediate vicinity virtually impossible. Access to clean water, schools, health facilities during this time is minimal. Often, we have no choice but to wait till the end of the year when the mud and water have finally dried, to go to Kapoeta,” revealed Regan Loparing Lochaika, a youth leader from the Jie community of Kassengor. “We need assistance from our government as well as humanitarian partners,” he added.
State authorities, including Louis Lobong Lojore, Governor, Eastern Equatoria, had been planning to visit these areas and listen to community concerns for a while but road travel seemed to be impossible. Considering the recent widespread intercommunal violence in the greater Jonglei area, which has displaced thousands, the need for government officials to meet people living here became even more cogent. The UNMISS Field Office in the region, therefore, decided to use its air assets to fly Governor Lojore and his delegation for a face-to-face interaction with the Jie communities in Kassengor as well as the Toposa communities of Kuron and Kauro. Upon arrival, Governor Lojore spent time listening to the hardships faced by community members and their concerns.
Furthermore, he urged them to eschew violence, support those affected by the clashes and make every effort to coexist peacefully. “Given the proximity of these communities to Pibor, it is reasonable to expect that many displaced people may be pushed towards Eastern Equatoria if the conflict increases. Therefore, it was incumbent upon us to reach out at any cost and make sure that the conflict-affected are received in peace and find sanctuary,” he stated.
In Kuron, local peace partners requested the state government’s backing to boost education in the area. The village is home to one of the best primary schools in Eastern Equatoria, well- maintained and staffed by committed teachers. A secondary school is expected to start soon once a block of classrooms and toilets constructed with funding from the UNMISS Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme are handed over. “We are very thankful to UNMISS for constructing a secondary school, which is in the final stages of completion. We would be honoured if Governor Lojore would witness the official handover and request him to include our teaching staff on the salary list of government teachers,” said Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban, the founder of Kuron, a village that stands for peaceful coexistence. “Kuron was established as a place of peace and government support will go a long way in ensuring we remain a symbol of a united South Sudan and continue the assistance, such as medical care, we provide to all who come here,“ concluded Bishop Taban.
As Governor Lojore and his delegation reached the end of their visit, Antony Mwapa, Team Leader, Human Rights, UNMISS Torit Field Office, explained how the mission’s collaboration with national partners lies at the heart of one of its key mandated goals – protection of civilians. “Intercommunal violence can never be viewed as a geographically isolated incident. It impacts people not just physically but emotionally and this has repercussions for communities across South Sudan; the toll of violence has a ripple effect that is felt by everyone. As a UN peace operation, therefore, it is our duty to do whatever we can to protect innocent civilians and enable host governments to provide succor and guidance to all who need it. Most importantly, for us as a mission, cooperating with state or national actors as they bring peace programmes to the doorsteps of South Sudanese people, means that we are taking a step forward to our ultimate goal—helping facilitate a durable peace across this country,” averred Mr. Mwapa.
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