Amongst my assignments in Africa, I feel myself lucky to serve at Bor town of Jonglei state under UN Mission in South Sudan. This state is one of the epicenters of conflict in South Sudan.
After becoming independent from Sudan on 9 July, in December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. Later, a peace agreement was signed in Ethiopia under threat of United Nations sanctions for both sides in August 2015. Machar returned to Juba in 2016 and was appointed vice president. Following a second breakout of violence in Juba, Machar was replaced as vice-president and he fled the country as the conflict erupted again.
Up to 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the war. About 3 million people have been displaced in a country of 12 million, with about 2 million internally displaced and about 1 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.
United Nations is protecting hundreds of thousands of civilians in its different camps in South Sudan. UN Security Council resolution 2327 (2016) of 16 December 2016 has authorized to deploy up to 17,000 army troops, 2,101 police personnel and 78 corrections officers until December 2017, who are directly protecting and supporting to the war affected civilians. Protection of civilians, humanitarian assistance, human rights protection and supporting Intergovernmental Agency for Development(IGAD) are four basic mandates of UN Security Council to UNMISS.
As a civilian staff, my assignment was linked to coordination among UN humanitarians and INGOs at the state level. The work to coordinate was quite challenging, interesting and hectic. My major daily activities were concentrated on creating better support for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) inside Protection of Civilian (POC) site.
South Sudan has the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oil revenues constitute more than 98% of the government of South Sudan’s budget. More than 90% of the population of South Sudan live on less than $1 a day, despite the GDP per capita of the entirety of Sudan being $1200 ($3.29/day).
During the initial period of conflict, the relationship between the Government and UNMISS was increasingly tense, amid mounting anti-United Nations sentiments in the country. It was not easy to run humanitarian support programs to the affected people. It’s alike a political mission of large numbers of staffs and there could be good as well as wrong motivated personnel inside it. The ability of UNMISS to move freely was increasingly obstructed approximately for a year until misunderstanding sorted out.
According to UN Security Council resolution, it authorized UNMISS to use “all necessary means to carry out its tasks” to protect IDPs inside POC camps as well as other susceptible population of South Sudan.
Supporting IDPs at UNMISS camps in South Sudan was a new experience, not only for me but it was also the first time this has occurred in the history of the United Nations. POC camps resemble like a small town full of tents.
The majority of IDPs at UNMISS camps in South Sudan are from Nuer community. Some foreigners from the neighboring countries are also living as IDPs inside the camp. The major challenges inside the POC site include: floods during rain; conflicts among IDPs; the non-availability and short supply of materials due to conflict; fear of attacks from outside; the spread of communicable diseases like kalazar; diarrhea and malaria and other health hazards; and human right violations, which occur from time to time inside POC site.
Most of the meetings with the community leaders at the POC site are conducted either under a tree or under a shade, with all participants standing in a circle. The service providers and the service receivers meet face to face and try to resolve problems as quickly as possible. Sometime, needed assistance of a translator.
How internal conflict makes its people insecure, up to full-fledged war level inside a country, South Sudan conflict is a life-threatening example of brutality in modern human history. Supporting such war affected community with needed support, I felt it, the most humanitarian work to care and coordinate different activities for the survival of certain sect of people and keeping them free from fear, providing food, shelter and other necessary items.
*Hari Prasad Shrestha, writer of books- “Melting Everest and Falling Mountains” and “The Violent Nile: A Novella on East Africa” is former Undersecretary, Nepal Government and associated with UNDP and UNMISS Africa. He is a freelance writer and regularly contributes articles to leading dailies and journals across the world. Graduated from Tribhuvan University, he went on to Italy to complete his further studies and studied at the institute for Studies on Economic Development, Naples and the Italian Civil Service High institute, Reggio Calabria. He also studied at the University of Connecticut, USA. He is a Member of the Nepalese Journal of Administration, Management and Development and Advisory Board Member and country representative of the South Asia Journal, USA. Mr. Shrestha worked as member of editorial board of bi-monthly publication “Finance- News and Views” of Ministry of Finance, Nepal and has worked as member secretary of different study task forces constituted by the ministry related to revenue, economy and national development. His assignment as one of the member under UNDP, South Sudan in preparing five years Strategic Plan (2013-2017) and supporting international donors conference for State of Western Bahr El Ghazal, Wau were praised by national and international authorities.