UNHCR welcomes communities’ pledge to end abductions

UNHCR welcomes communities’ pledge to end abductions

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has welcomed the commitment by communities in Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area to end the abhorrent practice of abducting women and children and repatriate those affected safely to their families.

The communities agreed to establish committees on tracing abductees and mechanisms of returning them. There was also an agreement to engage youth in alternative income-generating activities.

The High-Level Dialogue organized by UNHCR brought together community leaders from Twic East, Bor South, and Duk counties as well as officials from both state and national governments. Other attendees were Members of Parliament and representatives of the international community.

The dialogue provided a platform for a frank and earnest exchange of views among over 300 participants on a horrific aspect of inter-communal violence and abductions.

Affected parents have also appealed for an end to the cycle of violence and advocated for trust to be built across communities, UNHCR revealed in a joint press release. 

“My children were taken from me many years ago. Now, we will give back their children, and I hope my children will be returned to me,” one of the parents said.

State Minister of Peacebuilding, Malual Gabriel Kon, stressed the importance of the role of community leaders in strengthening peace and the need to continue engaging them in the process.

“For peace to prevail, we need to support traditional leaders. If they can be mobilized for war, they can also be mobilized for peace,” Gabriel stressed. 

The dialogue forms part of a broader effort to end the cycles of violence in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.

UNMISS and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights have led the efforts to release and reunify abductees held by three communities involved in the cyclical violence in the region.

Since March, UNMISS Human Rights Division has facilitated the release of abductees, family tracing, and reunification of 100 abductees within the framework of agreements by the community leaders to identify and mobilize abductees as part of the peace process.

Mooted solutions

David De Dau, a national MP who was part of the delegation from Juba spoke in this light and proposed an Emergency State Standing Order (SSO) on ending abductions. 

Dau said such an order would have a grace period during which individuals harboring abductees must release and return them without criminal sanctions. 

“The idea with this is that many abductors might take advantage of the amnesty offered and release abductees sooner to avoid being caught after the deadline,” he said.

Dau called on the state government to take the peace initiated by the communities seriously and support the local communities to achieve a lasting solution to end bouts of violence.

“The State Standing Order must establish Cattle raiding and Abduction Prevention Squad (CAPS) to deal with issues of cattle raids and Abduction of children and women. [They] should involve local informers, CSOs, and security agents to report on those still holding children at their custody,” Dau added.

Simon Hoth, Minister of Local Government, appealed for more effort to return the abducted children and women to their homes of origin.

“The first approach is to give peaceful and voluntary handing over of abducted children and women to their state authorities a chance,” said Hoth.

UNHCR Representative in South Sudan, Arafat Jamal, also added emphasized the need to end the cycle of violence in the greater Jonglei.

“There is no parent or child in the world who would not dread the prospect of abduction,” Jamal noted.

“While there is still much more to do to end cycles of violence, this event shows that we can come together as the people, government, and the international community to solve a problem” he added.

The counties of Duk, Twic East, and Bor South through their head chiefs, national and state MPs, women leaders, armed youth leaders as well as county commissioners unanimously denounced the violence, the practice of women and child abduction in Jonglei according to the resolution UNHCR shared with the City Review.

Plan presented

As part of their efforts to facilitate tracing and returns of abducted people, each county presented a plan to identify abductees within their communities so that they are mobilized for reunification with their communities of origin. 

Part of these plans includes the formation of community committees to spearhead tracing. Each county will have committees at the county, Payam, boma, and village levels. The county committee on abductee tracing will be the structure recognized as official by the state.