Eighty-year-old Nyapuoka Gatkuoth Geer has seen a lot of suffering during the conflict that erupted across South Sudan five years ago.
In the southern Unity region, where she lives, fierce fighting between armed groups forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Many took their families into the bush and swampland, living on whatever wild fruits and vegetables they could scavenge.
At least 200 civilians were killed and over 100 women raped in Leer and Mayendit from April to May this year, according to a report by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
Nyapuoka is among hundreds of people who sought sanctuary from the violence in a camp next to a temporary UN base in Leer. Additional peacekeepers were deployed to the area in May in response to a surge in violent clashes. She is grateful for their protection and remains hopeful that a new peace agreement will bring an end to the conflict.
“We are reaching this time of peace because of the UN soldiers deployed here,” said Nyapuoka. “I cannot run because I am very old. My life was saved by the peacekeepers and our security in the area has so far been improved because they are protecting us from people who want to kill us.”
She said that when people become sick at night, the peacekeepers are also assisting with medication and treatment.
Ghanaian peacekeepers deployed in Leer have described the security situation as calm following the signing of the revitalized peace agreement.
“The security situation in Leer and South Liech generally has so far been better compared to last year,” said Commanding Officer, Captain Daniel Aiplah. “Over the past four months, the area has been calm and there are signs of peace.”
“We are hoping that the peace agreement will help the people of this region to recovery from their painful memories and start their normal lives again.”
Nyakuoth Ruot Tiop, a mother of five children, is also optimistic about the future following the signing of the peace agreement.
“The UN troops have done so many good things for us,” she said. “Now, with the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, we are planning to return to our homes and resume our normal activities. We are hoping to rebuild our lives soon.”