A steady stream of spontaneous returnees has been making its way home as a local peace initiative in the Tambura area, supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has resulted in relative calm and security.
Make-shift tents sheltered thousands of internally displaced persons seeking refuge from fighting in Tambura and its surroundings. In recent weeks, several thousand have returned to their nearby home villages.
Despite facing multiple challenges, returnees say that home is where they want to be now that relative peace has been restored. However, some displaced persons still feel too uncertain to go back to their origins as they need something to return to.
“I don’t have a house. I don’t even have a plastic sheet I can erect for shelter when I return. I lost my husband during the conflict. I am alone, so who can construct a house for me?” said Angelina Lazaro, a displaced woman in Tambura.
On the other hand, Mary Sebit returned to her village in November last year when she heard that calm and security prevailed again. She eagerly awaits the rainy season to resume farming.
“I fled to nearby army barracks. Life there was very difficult. There was nothing to eat. I realized that if I continued to stay there, my life with my children would not be ok, so I decided to come home with all my children. We are not asking for food but let them at least bring us seeds and tools for planting them. That would help us,” she said.
A UNMISS assessment team visiting the areas of returnees witnessed the difficulties that the home-comers are facing.
“They have decided to go back home to reconnect with their sources of livelihood to be able to send their children to school and take up their farming activities again,” said Thomas Bazawi, an UNMISS Protection, Transition and Reintegration Officer.
He reiterated the peacekeeping mission’s continued support to the returnees.
“UNMISS as a peace partner, will work hand in hand with the government. More specifically, in the areas of high concentration of returnees, we will use the little funding that we have for Quick Impact Projects to fill some of the service delivery gaps that the returnees may be facing. We will also advocate on behalf of the community in different forums,” he added.
It is hoped that peace will continue to prevail and that humanitarian actors will contribute to ensure that basic needs of returnees can be met.
About the Situation in South Sudan
The United Nations say that there are approx. 2.2 m internally displaced people in South Sudan and another 2.3 m have fled the country as refugees.
Pope Francis will shortly embark on a historic journey to South Sudan see for himself just how neglected the coutry is in 2023. With Catholics comprising approximately half of South Sudan’s population, and faith-based organizations playing an invaluable role in healthcare, education, democratic development and more – this could be a significant event like no other for millions of refugees who have endured prolonged conflict.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is a multidimensional peacekeeping mission mandated by the UN Security Council in 2011. Its primary objective is to consolidate peace and stability in the world’s newest country, which gained independence from Sudan just two years prior.
UNMISS works with a range of partners, ranging from local municipalities to non-governmental organizations, to achieve this goal.
At its core, UNMISS provides security and protection for civilians in South Sudan through military operations and police monitoring. It also seeks to facilitate humanitarian access throughout the nation, provide protection of human rights and support national reconciliation efforts.
In addition, it works to strengthen government institutions while providing assistance with developing rule of law mechanisms such as judicial systems.
Finally, UNMISS promotes economic development programs that will help reduce poverty levels within South Sudanese society.
Sources: THX News, Reuters & United Nations Mission in South Sudan.