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UNMISS Force Commander visits key UNMISS bases in Wau, assesses operational and security situation

UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant General Mohan Subramanian conducted a three-day visit to Wau to discuss operational and security issues. Photo by Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS

WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – At the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), protecting civilians against armed violence is a top priority. To make sure Blue Helmets serving with the UN Peacekeeping mission continue being robust and proactive in preventing and mitigating conflict, Lieutenant-General Mohan Subramanian, UNMISS Force Commander, regularly visits troops serving for peace across all 10 states in this young nation. This week, he spent three days in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr El Ghazal state, using his time to discuss operational strategies and security issues with peacekeepers on the ground. “The core of protecting civilians is being able to prevent violence from happening in the first place,” he explained. “But often, that isn’t possible for our peacekeepers, given the tough terrain in which they function and, critically, because raising tensions among communities is very sudden. Any small dispute can devolve very quickly into full-fledged conflict. So, it’s vital for us to consistently assess what we have done in the past, examine the lessons learned and improve upon our responses,” he added. Such visits by the leading military man at UNMISS also serve to boost morale among troops. “We have a huge responsibility to protect people across Western Bahr El Ghazal, especially in hard-to-reach areas, such as Raja county. Having our peacekeepers patrolling in these remote locations builds community confidence and boosts stability but it comes with considerable logistic issues, and we have discussed the possibility of starting a few temporary operating bases, giving our military personnel the necessary agility to be able to perform to their operational best,” said Brigadier General Kweku Dankwa Hagan, Sector Commander for UNMISS in Western Bahr El Ghazal.Additionally, Force Commander Subramanian met with local military and security officials, strengthening partnership with key stakeholders.“As a UN Peacekeeping mission, we rely heavily on partnerships. The primary responsibility to protect civilians lies with the Government of South Sudan and, therefore, every time I am out in deep field locations, I make it a point to meet local uniformed interlocuters,” revealed the Lieutenant-General. “Meeting the Division Five Commander of the South Sudan Peoples Defence Forces (SSPDF) in Wau gave us the opportunity to discuss ongoing issues related to peace and security, plus plan for the future pragmatically,” he continued. Major General Abraham Gum Makuae, SSPDF Division Five Commander, agreed. “We have always had a very cordial relationship with UNMISS. The mutual operational support and cooperation between the SSPDF and peacekeepers has gone a long way in promoting peace,” he averred. It was a productive tour, said Force Commander Subramanian, as he prepared to return to the mission’s headquarters in Juba. “While concerns about cyclical conflict because of seasonal cattle migration still exist, overall, I am heartened to see things moving in the right direction, security wise, for the people of Western Bahr El Ghazal. This is testament to the strong collaboration between UNMISS, the state government and, of course, the communities themselves,” he concluded.