The head of the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, has completed a two-day visit to the Greater Bahr El Ghazal region, where he held discussions with local authorities in Wau on a wide range of issues, including the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and security in the region.
On the implementation of the agreement, Mr. Shearer said he had spent the last two or three months touring around and outside of the region to try and encourage the international community to get behind the peace process and push it forward.
“As I keep on saying, there’s no plan B. There’s only a plan A. We have to get them behind plan A, and the plan A has to work, because there’s no other alternative,” he said, emphasizing the need to avoid a situation where the country slips back to where it was in 2016.
The head of the UN mission also acknowledged what was happening on the ground, with regards to the implementation of the peace agreement.
“It’s been very impressive that you have been able to achieve the type of results that you have. You have IO (opposition groups) people coming into town, mixing freely, moving around without any problems, and building that trust and confidence,” Shearer said. “You can’t have a peace agreement if you don’t have trust and confidence. You can write everything you like down, but if there is no trust and confidence, it’s not going to work,” noted Mr. Shearer.
Regarding the security situation in the area, Mr. Shearer brought up the incident in Kuajiena in March, which resulted in the death of a number of farmers, calling for justice for the victims.
“In particular accountability for the people who have lost their lives; it’s important that we find the culprits, and that there is accountability there as well,” he said.
Wau Governor Angelo Taban Biajo said the incident resulted from the violation, by cattle keepers from Tonj, of the Marial Bai Agreement – signed in 2016 to ensure peaceful co-existence between cattle keepers and farmers – but it was not a big threat to the security situation in the area.
“They violated that agreement by so many points. Now we managed to control it, but still, we will bring all those who committed the crimes to court,” declared the governor, who said a meeting was already in the pipeline this week, where three governors – of Tonj, Wau and Gogrial – would meet to chart a way forward.
The head of UNMISS also emphasized the need for continuous access, or what he called “predictability of access”, both for humanitarians and for peacekeepers to conduct patrols.
“We’re not here to spy or do anything underhanded; what we are here to do is try and create security so that people can live in peace, and our ability to get out there gives people confidence, and we would like to think that we can try and support that.”
After the 2016 war, roads in the area have not been renovated, making access to remote areas and delivering of humanitarian assistance difficult.
Governor Angelo Taban Biajo expressed concern about the impending rainy season, noting that because of bad roads, Wau town would be cut from Tambura, where most of the food items to Wau come from.
The governor requested the help of the United Nations to renovate the roads to encourage voluntary returns of people sheltering in the United Nations protection of civilian sites. Mr. Shearer said the mission was a big supporter of building better roads, and promised the mission’s support.
“Roads not only create access for people, but they create economic activity, they create trade, they create jobs and they create peace because people are moving backwards and forwards, not only in their communities, they actually move into town,’’ noted SRSG David Shearer who was accompanied by the Deputy Director of the United Nations World Food Programme and the head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation in South Sudan, among other United Nations officials.
The United Nations mission has five construction companies in different parts of South Sudan including the Chinese engineering battalion based at its base in Wau.
The meeting also explored ways to create a conducive environment for safe, dignified voluntary returns of displaced people which, the head of UNMISS noted, would be possible with more security.