Nepali peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan have been patrolling the troubled Maper of northern Lakes region of the country to restore normalcy, which became disturbed after 79 people were killed and over 100 injured in communal clashes between the Gak and Manuer communities, which started on 27 Nov 2019. Nepali peacekeepers stationed in Rumbek, 100 kilometers south from Maper, were air lifted to this place soon after. Now, a company of peacekeepers from the Nepali Battalion are operating day and night from their base providing security to the affected population.
Nepali peacekeepers protective presence has given a sense of security to the local population, and has facilitated the immediate political process amongst the key stakeholders that followed. The UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant General Shailesh Tinaikar visited the region, along with Nepali Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bharat Budhathoki, and appreciated the crucial role of the Nepali peacekeepers. The international media, including The Guardian, have highlighted on the intervention made by the peacekeepers, and its positive impact. East Africa analyst Jeremy Taylor, of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who said the speedy deployment of the peacekeepers to the region underlined the mission’s resolve to end inter-communal clashes as quickly as possible.
Rapid response by Nepali peacekeepers in containing the security situation in the country that has already faced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises due to inter-communal violence has been widely appreciated by all concerned. Paramount Chief Manyiel Lieny of Maper region expressed happiness that with the arrival of Nepali peacekeepers in the region, the fighting has stopped. While political violence has largely subsided in South Sudan since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018, inter-communal clashes continue to result in the killing and injuring of civilians, cattle raiding and the looting of property.
Nepali peacekeepers have been urging the communities to be calm, providing medical treatment to the injured people and are extending a message of peace among the conflicting parties. “This fighting must stop,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer. “We are urging the communities involved and their leaders to put an end to the violence and to come together in reconciliation and peace for the good of their people.” South Sudan has a power-sharing deal, signed in September 2018, which is meant to end a civil war that began in 2013, commits forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, and the rebel groups fighting them, to sharing power. As a result of the conflict that time, tens of thousands got killed, a third of the population has been displaced and two-and-a-half million people were forced into exile as refugees.
People still recount horrifying stories of past atrocities: people burned to death in their houses, arbitrary shootings, rape and widespread looting of cattle. The local communities hope for peace, but worry that with the departure of Nepali peacekeepers’, violence may return in the region. This, of course, emphasizes on the need for stronger political resolve and understanding amongst the warring factions, to sustain fragile peace in the region.