As conflict continues to plague parts of Western Equatoria, tens of thousands of people have fled their homes to seek refuge together in temporary displacement camps.
They are gathering in places such as Yambio and Ezo as well as Wau, in neighbouring Western Bahr-el-Ghazal State, following ongoing violence that has resulted in hundreds of deaths, the torching of homes, and looting of property.
While primary responsibility for protecting civilians lies with the national and state government, peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan are doing all they can to help deter violence, restore security, and build peace across the region.
They have extended and reinforced their protective presence in the area after initially establishing what was hoped would be a temporary base in Tambura in July.
“The arrival of the UN peacekeepers has given us hope and reduced our fear,” says one of the displaced people, Euzobia Mordukai.
Ethiopian peacekeepers are currently deployed and are conducting regular patrols. They are also watching over several displacement camps, including at Saint Mary Parish and the Ministries Complex.
Sumba Anthony Thomas is one of those who has sought sanctuary at Saint Mary church.
“We were in great fear because the church premises where we are is open. However, today, we can smile because the UN forces are here to protect us.”
The conflict between different ethnic groups erupted in June. Last week, state authorities sent a team to the area to try to broker an end to the violence and restore calm.
The head of the delegation, Minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Resources Development, Makuku Daniel Sam, said they were committed to resolving the conflict so that people can return to their homes to live in harmony and peace.
“The conflict is catastrophic,” he says. “Since we arrived in Tambura, we have managed to retrieve more than 30 bodies, mainly women, children and elderly. We are still collecting more. It’s critical that this conflict ends for the sake of our people.”
UNMISS is calling on political leaders at the national and local level to bring communities together to talk through their challenges. The Mission is also working on the ground to bring together political, security, traditional and faith-based leaders as well as civil society and communities more broadly for reconciliation and peace talks.