To mitigate conflict caused by the seasonal migration of cattle across South Sudan during the ongoing dry season and build confidence among local communities, UNMISS peacekeepers have established two temporary operating bases in Lainya, a county along the Yei-Juba road in Central Equatoria and Akoka, which lies some 62 kilometers north-east of Malakal, Upper Nile.
“Our aim is to make sure our Blue Helmets are agile and can respond swiftly in areas where conflict has the potential to flare up,” explains Lieutenant-General Shailesh Tinaikar, UNMISS Force Commander. “So, we started designing our operations around what in military-speak is called a ‘hub and spoke’ model. Basically, instead of restricting ourselves to the more established bases in single locations, we’ve developed a system by which we can be mobile in response to to evolving security threats and have boots on the ground where civilians need our protection the most with minimum delay.”
This way of working has additional benefits according to Force Commander Tinaikar. “As peacekeepers, our job is not only to protect civilians but also to engage community members and local authorities alike so that we receive early warnings about any potential escalation of tensions,” he reveals. “With this method we are able to anticipate serious security risks in advance and this, ultimately makes us better at preventing violent outbreaks in the first place.”
In and around Lainya, Lokurubang and Loka, clashes between cattle herders and armed groups led to a volatile security situation with some 500 people sheltering outside the temporary UNMISS presence. Following intensive patrolling by peacekeepers from Nepal since 9 January 2020, conditions have improved; community members have started resuming normal lives and are returning to their villages of origin.
Similarly, in Akoka, peacekeepers from India have successfully engaged with community members and carried out engineering tasks such as leveling of the local school’s football field and constructing a path connecting the school and village over swamplands, thereby making long detours for children unnecessary. Furthermore, peacekeepers conducted a veterinary camp and treated numerous animals belonging to livestock owners.
“Our job is to make sure all communities across South Sudan are protected and supported as much as possible. It is often difficult to be mobile and respond rapidly to threats of violence in this country because of the lack of proper infrastructure such as roads and bridges. However, with these temporary bases we can overcome many of those challenges and do what we’re here to do – build durable peace,” said David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan and Head of UNMISS.
“I’m very proud of our peacekeepers for their commitment and dedication and for taking this proactive, robust approach to protecting civilians and building peace.”