NP deploying 8 field teams in South Sudan
Nonviolent Peaceforce is expanding rapidly in South Sudan, in response to the growing protection needs and insecurity in the world’s newest country. By the end of this month, NP will have 8 field teams deployed across 5 different states of South Sudan, using the unique methodology of unarmed civilian peacekeeping to reduce violence and increase the safety and security of civilians affected by violent conflict.
Stability, security and protection are issues of the utmost important in South Sudan. Violent conflict consistently results in massive displacement, evacuation of humanitarian and development actors, ruined crops, destruction of property and interruption to essential services such as health care and education. Nonviolent Peaceforce is making every effort to work together with communities and state duty bearers to reduce violence and increase safety and security for civilian through the deployment of both international and national protection officers trained in unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
Closing of first field site in South Sudan
NP’s first field site in South Sudan was set up in 2010 in Mundri, in Western Equatoria State. After nearly 2 years of conflict prevention and protection programming in the Greater Mundri area, this office was closed at the end of January. The local secretary for the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) had this to say about NP as we finally closed our office there:
“After 21 years of war, we didn’t have the capacity to deal with our own conflicts. When NP came, they helped us to build the capacity of our own community, helping them solve their own problems so they won’t need outside help in the future. NP’s work is sustainable because it helps the community become the agents of peacemaking- and we have already seen that start to happen. Without NP, the community wouldn’t know their role in making that possible”.
Nzara field team focuses on protection of children
Our second field site in Western Equatoria, in Nzara County, was established in 2011 and the work at that site continues. Nzara is just a few kilometres from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and NP continues to provide protection and conflict prevention support for the highly vulnerable communities affected by the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in that area.
This conflict has led to widespread internal displacement of South Sudanese people as well as to a sizeable refugee community of people who have fled across the border from the DRC. NP’s programming in this area is focused on the protection of children, through safe reintegration of children who have been abducted and who have since been rescued. The team also works with communities to help them improve the safety and security of their children, working to protect them from further abductions. As women are frequently targeted and have been affected by conflict related sexual violence for many years, NP’s programming also includes gender based violence (GBV) protection and prevention programming.
Expanding into Lakes State
Greater Mundri is near the border between Western Equatoria and Lakes State. In 2011, serious conflict between pastoralists from Lakes State and agriculturalists from Western Equatoria escalated into violence which resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many deaths and the complete destruction of some villages. NP together with local partners, and working in conjunction with national, state and local level authorities facilitated dialogue between the affected communities ultimately bringing about a ceasefire and a detailed peace agreement.
NP has since then accompanied the communities through the implementation of the agreement, providing protective presence, rumour control and engaging with spoilers to prevent the dissolution of the agreement. In order to further this process and to ensure the sustainability of the peace and stability in the border communities of both WES and Lakes State, NP is now deploying a field team to be based full time in Lakes State where they will build upon the relationships made during the peace process and continuing to reach back across the border into WES. The focus of this work is finalizing the implementation of a detailed migration agreement and code of conduct, facilitated dialogue for conflict resolution, de-escalation of tensions and the continuation of community security trainings where communities and state duty bearers are trained in some of the skills and tools of unarmed civilian peacekeeping, enabling them to engage proactively in improving their own security.
Tracing of lost children in Juba
In and around the capital of Juba in Central Equatoria, where NP has its administrative headquarters, the NP team is also implementing child protection and GBV programming.
As part of a repatriation program associated with the independence of the south, tens of thousands of people have returned from Sudan ‘proper’, traveling on highly crowded, unsanitary barges down the length of the Nile and arriving with all their worldly possessions to try and re-start their lives in South Sudan. In these crowds there are always unaccompanied children, children who are traveling without their primary caregivers and who need to be reunified with extended family in the south. NP’s team provides protective presence at the port, at the Way Station where nearly 2,000 people are currently stranded in overcrowded, unsustainable conditions with no means of finding their way to their original homes. The team meets each barge and finds the unaccompanied minors, advised in advance by partners from UNICEF in both Sudan and South Sudan of their identity details and the NP team then traces their family for them, and accompanies them for return. As this is a highly traumatic experience for many children with many protection vulnerabilities, the team works to provide ongoing follow-up safe reintegration support for the children.
Women’s Peacekeeping Teams
Local Women’s Peacekeeping Teams have now been formed in both Central Equatoria and Nzara in Western Equatoria – bringing women together in safe spaces where they work to identify the key security risks that they face and receive a range of skills trainings and support from the NP teams to help them reduce the violence in their communities.
Working with Refugees in Unity State
In Unity State, NP now has two field teams. Since October, NP has been providing emergency protection monitoring and interventions in the Yida refugee camp where approximately 25,000 Nuban refugees have come across the border into South Sudan to escape the civil war that broke out in South Kordofan in the summer months.
Working with the most vulnerable in the community, NP focuses on implementing direct protection strategies for those facing imminent danger such as large population of unaccompanied minors, the particularly vulnerable unaccompanied female minors and the elderly. They have been focussing on securing the relationship between the host community and the refugee communities and supporting sustainable solutions for conflict risk factors such as access to water, food shortages and the use of land. After doing community security trainings with both the host and refugee communities, helping them to develop standard operating procedures to improve their own community security – both communities have initiated a “watchman” system as a result of this training and have asked NP to support its implementation and to provide further training in nonviolent conflict resolution and protection strategies.
Also in Unity State, NP has recently deployed a protection team responsible for implementing emergency child protection in the northern part of the state, supporting counties of Mayom, Abiehnohm and Pariang areas that have largely been cut off from humanitarian and development support due to instability brought about by rebel militia groups. Providing protection support for children at risk of recruitment by non-state armed actors, safe reintegration support for demobilized child combatants and direct protection for children at risk of imminent violence.
Emergency response in Jonglei
In late December and early January, violence in the already conflict prone state of Jonglei escalated dramatically when a group of approximately 5,000 members of the Lou Nuer and Dinka tribes marched on the town of Pibor carrying out attacks in neighbouring villages and finally the town of Pibor. This large scale attack was being called a reprisal for attacks carried out by the Murle earlier in the year and predictably have resulted in new reprisal attacks by Murle and further attacks from the Lou Nuer and Dinka are rumoured to be in the planning.
While the full scope of the humanitarian impact is still unfolding, the number of casualties, abductees, deaths and the over 120,000 people displaced has resulted in the Government of South Sudan declaring the state a disaster zone. Given the fluidity of the context, the ongoing tensions and the multitude of protection issues,
NP has just received an emergency grant from UNHCR to deploy 3 protection teams into Jonglei State, one in each of the tribal areas. The teams will be focusing on protection monitoring, establishing safe spaces for civilians, facilitating the reunification of separated families, verifying information and protection issues in remote locations, special attention will be paid to the most vulnerable including women, children, the elderly and the disabled.