UNMISS mends rift between civilians and organised forces

UNMISS mends rift between civilians and organised forces
Civilian community and members of organised forces discuss during a dialogue based forum in Malakal town, South Sudan. [Photo via UNMISS]

 The relationship between civilians and the members of the security forces has deteriorated since the war broke out in the country in 2013.

In a  statement by United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)  seen by City Review yesterday,  Community Representative of Malakal town, Athieb Okech Ajang argued that there is a need to improve the relationship between the civilian community and the organised forces by building a bridge of trust among them.

“Since December 2013 the relationship between civilian communities and armed forces has deteriorated. Now that there [is] a peace deal and our country [is] slowly implementing it. It is important for all of us to be on the same page and coexist peacefully,” said Okech during the two days forum organized by UNMISS in Malakal town

He said the conflict had created fear among the civilian community especially among women and children who have been victims of rape and child abuse.

Youth Representative Monica Deng said that on many occasions they have been getting a lot of information about security officers assaulting women and girls adding that incidences have tarnished the image of the officers in the public.

She encouraged UNMISS to organise more dialogue so that women and girls could speak their minds about what has been happening during the conflict. “I am hopeful that [in] this conversation, we will have less to worry about,” she said.

However, Col. John Kasara Kong said that putting civilians and organised forces together will create an atmosphere for a free discussion with the two groups take away fear from the civilians.

 He said the presence of the forces within the community was not to instil fear but to make the civilians aware that their work is for the protection of people and property.

Deputy Governor of Upper Nile James Tor Monybouny said that the state government is committed to restoring confidence and cooperation among all the citizens.

He said sharing ideas and speaking to each other is what is needed among the forces and civilians to forget what has happened in the past since the conflict started.

He said the communication among the citizens should continue to flow so that they can be able to trust one another.

UNMISS Malakal Office Department of Civil Affairs Team Leader Jaroslaw Jan Rabantek urged both civilians and armed forces to utilise such dialogue to promote reconciliation and social cohesion among themselves. 

He said it is all the responsibility of the citizens and every individual has their part to make sure a better future for this country.

In May 2021, fear and anxiety gripped a Malakal camp where many residents expressed concerns that their safety will not be guaranteed if the humanitarian agency transfers security matters to the government.

The New Humanitarian ran a news story on Wednesday, May 18, detailing the exit strategy of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) from protecting the camp, and also covering the growing fears by the residents that the aftermath would be dangerous for them.

According to the sources that spoke to the New Humanitarian, should UNMISS transfer the mandate to protect the civilian sites to the government, the situation may worsen. This volatility has been attributed to the mistrust that exists between South Sudanese security forces and the residents occupying the Malakal camp.

A policy analyst for the Norwegian Refugee Council in South Sudan Mark Millar alleged that the Shilluk community living in the area could become targets and there is a lot of need to protect them.