SOUTH SUDAN- According to reports from United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations is exploring the option of opening a new base in the conflict-ridden Yei region of South Sudan if warring parties agree to allow peacekeepers unfettered access to outlying villages.
The Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, during his today’s visit to the “town on a mission to assess the needs of the community against the value of establishing a base,” met with key personalities in the area.
According to the press release, after Shearer’s meeting with political, religious and community leaders, he said there were several conditions that must be met before the UN could commit to a new base, including guaranteed access for peacekeepers to areas outside the town, the cooperation of local authorities, and a grassroots peace process that is genuinely inclusive.
According to David Shearer, “there’s no point just talking to your friends. You have to talk to your enemies too or there will be no peace.”
It is revealed that “once the breadbasket of South Sudan, the lush and fertile land surrounding Yei supported a thriving trading centre and attracted crowds of weekend visitors from the capital. It was an ethnically diverse community and home to 300,000 people living largely in harmony.”
Mary Solomon, Mothers’ Union leader, according to the report lamented that women were being forced to choose between letting their children starve or risking abduction and rape by venturing out to find food.
“The hunger in Yei is forcing women to go outside the town and it is really impossible for us as women to go outside but, because of our children, we really want to rescue them from dying, we go outside and we endanger our lives. Once you go outside the town, three miles or five miles, you are abducted,” Mary Solomon noted.
David Shearer further added in his remarks that it was a “tragedy” that the former breadbasket of South Sudan was now in need of food aid. He decried the negative outturn of the war.
“Everything you would want is here and yet it has been destroyed by war. Seventy per cent of the population is no longer here. They are in refugee camps or displaced. That’s the real tragedy so whatever we can do to try and support bringing back Yei to what it was, we will try and do.”
As reported by United Nations Mission in South Sudan, members of the Yei State Transitional Legislative Assembly, Christian and Muslim religious leaders as well as women and youth representatives supported the establishment of a new UN base in the town to provide protection and help build durable peace. This was echoed by the Bida Chaplain, Youth Leader in the district.
“If you have more peacekeepers here, you will really have that peace and then we will have the opportunity of being able to go outside to see our people in the villages and to go to the remote areas because the UN is there to keep people alive.”
Reporter: Ridwan A. Olayiwola