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UNMISS patrol improves security for travelers on Juba-Bor road

UNMISS peacekeepers patrol the Juba-Bor road to improve security following reports of armed groups operating in the area. The patrols follow a series of violent ambushes in May which resulted in the deaths of dozens of travelers. UNMISS/Mach Adut

Peacekeeping patrols along a notoriously dangerous road between the South Sudanese capital, Juba, and Bor, in the neighbouring Jonglei region, are enabling people and goods to travel safely again.

Last weekend, the Governor of Jonglei directed the military and police to suspend movements along the Juba-Bor road after increased movement of unidentified armed groups along the road at Gemeza and Mangalla.

The decision was designed to prevent the reoccurrence of violent ambushes that happened along the road in May, resulting in the deaths of dozens of travelers. In one incident, more than 40 people were killed after an attack on three vehicles.

However, the closure also meant that people were unable to travel to the capital to access essential services such as medical care or to transport food and other goods.

The road is an economic lifeline for the people of Bor. When it has previously been closed because of tribal clashes and ongoing insecurity, the cost of medicine, food and other essential items rapidly increased, creating a dire humanitarian situation for the communities living in Jonglei.

Weather during the rainy season has also had a severe impact on the road. For a week, 30 trucks were stranded near the town of Mangalla because of a heavy downpour that left the road impassable.

Most people have no option but to travel via this road because the cost of flying is out of reach at 10-12,000 South Sudanese pounds a trip - two years’ worth of salary for the average South Sudanese public servant.

UNMISS’ acting Deputy Commander of Sector East, Lieutenant Colonel Bogger Ulf, said the peacekeeping patrols along the road would continue until confidence and security was restored.

He said the local community had seized the opportunity created by the presence of the patrols to transport their food and other goods to and from Juba.

“We do these patrols mainly to enhance security on these roads because we know there have been incidents,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ulf. “We also often see that when we are doing our patrol, civilian contractors tag along with us and to us that is a sign that they feel confident when we are on the road.”

UNMISS is also planning to carry out air patrols to areas that are currently inaccessible by road to monitor the security situation.