JONGLEI/PIBOR- Following serious intercommunal clashes in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has contributed to a total of 88 abducted women and children being recovered and returned to Greater Pibor.
The people being handed back had been captured when armed Jonglei youth attacked the counties of Gumuruk and Likwangulei, belonging to the Greater Pibor area, during the festive season. Some of the persons abducted during the raids remain, however, in captivity.
The return of the abductees followed a request made my Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, to the state government of Jonglei. The women, girls and boys were then flown from Bor to Pibor, accompanied by a delegation of government officials.
While the peacekeeping mission did not participate directly in the negotiations, Geetha Pious, Head of its Field Office for Jonglei State and Greater Pibor, followed proceedings closely, facilitated meetings between different youth leaders and called on partners to take the necessary steps to care for the abductees before they were reunited with their families.
“I appreciate Jonglei State government for the release of these children and women. However, there are more abductees waiting to be set free, and I hope that the government will be able to make this happen soon,” she said.
The intercommunal hostilities in parts of Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area have claimed numerous lives, injured countless more and have seen the raiding of thousands of cattle, not to mention widespread destruction of property.
In his recent press conference in the capital Juba, Nicholas Haysom spoke about the dangers that sub-national conflicts pose for the implementation of South Sudan’s revitalized peace agreement.
“Shocking has been the number of women and children who were abducted, and those who have faced grave rights violations, including conflict-related sexual violence and abuse. While a temporary pause in the cyclical clashes had been observed, as armed youth around the vicinity of Bor returned to their counties of origin, violence was reported only recently in Uror and Nyirol counties, resulting in more deaths, injuries, abductions, and cattle raided,” he observed.
Reiterating that “the barbaric practice of abductions” must come to an end, the top UN official listed some of the activities undertaken by UN peacekeepers and humanitarians to address the situation: food distribution; road rehabilitation; increased patrolling to keep both the displaced and aid workers safe, and investigations and documentation of human rights violations being committed.
Mr. Haysom, using the Jonglei-Pibor conflict as an example of what preventive and mitigating actions that UNMISS and partners could opt for in other troubled parts of South Sudan, also said that additional Temporary Operating Bases may be established in the area, if deemed necessary. He added that political and civic consultations with all stakeholders are taking place “on a daily basis”, to “quell tensions and help resolve the situation.”