Business is booming in the town of Yambio.
The markets are bustling with families buying vegetables and fruit. Bodabodas are busy transporting people across town. A hair and nail salon is doing a brisk business as women pop out for a lunchtime pampering session.
But it’s a different story at night. That’s when most locals in this South Sudanese community hunker down in their homes as armed criminals harass, loot and beat people.
The criminal activity plaguing the Western Equatorian town is fueled by a lack of jobs for young men, combined with easy access to guns.
Outside the town, there has also been a recent surge in violence due to infighting between splintered opposition forces as well as conflicts with government troops.
Sixty thousand people are now estimated to be displaced. It’s frustrating for local authorities, who have worked hard over the past 18 months to build peace through a largely successful local grassroots campaign.
“We are a peace-loving community and any form of insecurity directly affects the life of the people,” said Gbudwe Governor, Daniel Badagbu. “It has had an impact on us because we have seen a lot more displaced people in the area.”
The UN Mission in South Sudan is helping protect civilians by doubling its troops to more than 300, and by increasing peacekeeping patrols to outlying areas.
“The problem is the insecurity,” said the Head of UNMISS, David Shearer. “We need to be building resilience among the people so they’re not dependent on humanitarian aid. But that resilience needs to go hand in hand with stability, which we can help provide through our peacekeepers. We also need reconciliation so the various groups fighting amongst each other come together.”
unmiss south sudan yambio protection of civilians 10 july 2018 criminality business booming peace initiatives resilience reconciliation stability vocational centresDuring a visit to the area, David Shearer met with a wide range of community groups, including religious leaders who have made a significant contribution towards peace, particularly working to demobilize child soldiers.
“We want to create a sense of being together for the nation,” said Bishop Peter Anibati Abia from the Lutheran Church.
In tandem with peace-building, the government is calling for support for development.
“We are pushing to create confidence in our people, to create an enabling environment for them,” said the Governor. “That’s why we have seen, as a government, that fighting using guns is not important for us. What is important is to fight using economic tools. That’s why we are trying to engage to make sure that our people are empowered economically.”
The UN family and humanitarian partners are working on a new recovery and resilience project.
The aim is to help rebuild trust between communities, support reconciliation efforts and strengthen local institutions.
“A lot of the work we are doing on resilience is about supporting vocational training centres, for example, for young boys who have been demobilized so that they are productive,” said David Shearer. “We also need to bring a number of groups together. We need them to reconcile. That’s something we do a lot of across South Sudan – often not seen, but it works.”
The project includes re-establishing basic services, so children can go to school and have access to healthcare and decent sanitation. Support will also be given to training women and young people and providing the tools and access to land that they need to support themselves and build a peaceful and prosperous future.