<a href=UNMISS, in collaboration with the state government of Eastern Equatoria, recently held a solution-focused dialogue to help address challenges faced by local authorities at the county-level in mitigating conflict and building peace at the grassroots (Photo by Moses Yakudu/UNMISS)



“Let me assure you that we shall continue to work together in the spirit of transparency and consultative partnership,” said Louis Lobong Lojore, Governor of Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan.

Governor Lobong was speaking at a three-day county commissioners forum held in the state capital Torit.

Thematically, the gathering, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) dealt with establishing a sustainable, democratic and decentralized system of locally led governance.

The main aim: To harmonize actions taken by the state government towards protecting civilians and upholding the rule of law across all counties in Eastern Equatoria. Some 60 county commissioners, ministers, and other stakeholders participated in the workshop.

“We look forward to strengthening our engagements with you to embed durable peace in the heart of every community and we encourage women to participate in this initiative,” said Anthony Nwapa, Acting Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in the state.

County authorities often have the herculean task of coordinating social services for citizens; managing security issues related to the possession of small arms by civilians; dealing with cattle raids and revenge killings; and the near absence of law enforcement personnel.

“We are working to leverage support for you so that you are able to overcome these challenges and enjoy as well as cascade the dividends of democracy to citizens under your jurisdiction. To help you, we need to hear from you” added Mr. Nwapa.

Low salaries for county authorities and lack of transportation were other issues highlighted at the forum.

“As county commissioners we must be able to move around quickly so that we can respond to any issues that crop up or lead to potential conflict. However, the lack of vehicles and poor roads make this near impossible. This slows down our reaction time and people suffer, so we call on state authorities to find us a sustainable solution,” revealed Emmanuel Lolimo Epone, a participant.

In reports presented by counties, inconsistent delivery of humanitarian assistance by agencies is fast becoming a concern. With increasing returns of displaced persons and refugees, health and education facilities, for example, should be revamped to cater to their arrivals.

The forum concluded with recommendations to establish additional police stations in identified locations as well as recruitment of law enforcement agents; rehabilitate poor roads; provide mobility support; and improve coordination in the delivery of aid to returnees, among others.

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