Welcome to the United Nations

UNMISS patrols are making a difference in previously more violence-plagued Tonj East

As is often the case, women in Tonj East County have been the ones suffering the most from intercommunal violence in the area. UNMISS patrols have improved their situation. Photos: Zejin Yin/UNMISS

WARRAP – In a bid to reduce intercommunal violence and increase the confidence of residents in Tonj East to go about their daily activities, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has intensified its patrols in the county.

One UN peacekeeping team monitoring the security situation held an informal discussion with a group consisting of women only. While describing the current state of affairs as “improved” and “relatively calm”, some of them expressed concern and had grievances.

"The freedom of movement is not ours," said Angelina Aluel. "We can only travel alone on the main road and during daytime. We cannot, for example, visit neighboring villages due to our fear of being ambushed."

Despite being significantly affected by outbursts of violence, Ms. Aluel’s friend Rebecca Nyangdeng feels that women are still excluded frequently excluded from peacebuilding and decision-making.

"They (men) often assume that we don't know how to think or what is best for us. To give you one example of that, I want to mention a woman and a girl who survived recent clashes near where we are. They were completely overlooked when men from the communities involved negotiated compensation for losses caused by the fighting,” she told the visiting peacekeepers, shaking her head in disbelief.

The sheer inaccessibility of Tonj East, caused by dismal roads and rains that sometimes make them virtually impassable, makes law enforcement complicated.

Local authorities are not planning to give up anytime soon, however. Acting County Commissioner Samuel Gun Gak Thuc, appointed just a couple of weeks ago, is so involved in attempting to apprehend criminals in remote areas that he is yet to make it to Romich, the administrative hub in Tonj East.

"The security situation is better than before, but we are still looking for suspects hiding in the bush," he said, clarifying that “we” include both paramount chiefs and the army.

Commissioner Thuc is worried about the fledgling rainy season making conditions worse for residents in the county.

"We hope that the government and others can help us deliver essential supplies like medicines to remote areas before they are completely cut off. Our wet season always means that especially children become more vulnerable to malaria and other serious diseases.”

Roda Sube, a Gender Affairs Officer serving with UNMISS, assured everyone the patrol team came across that the peacekeeping mission is a partner they can trust.

"We will always stand by your side, but development requires peace, which must be achieved collectively, by every one of you doing your part. Peace begins with you, that is the truth,” she said.