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Returnees express uncertainty after political tensions in South Sudan

By Ruot George

One by one, people who were locked out in Internally Displaced People’s Settlements or Protection of Civilian Sites (POCs) started to trickle home as a result of a 2018 peace deal which promised much optimism to the peace and security in South Sudan.

And implementation of that deal, which brought all the opposing groups into a unity government in the capital Juba has held on for the last two years.

 Now with one year to go, tensions is beginning to rise over provisions which have not fully been implemented.

 One such is the security arrangement which includes training and amalgamation of soldiers from all groups into a fundamental professional army of the country.

 Recently, the main group led by First Vice President Dr Riek Machar decided to boycott the meetings of the security arrangements citing attacks on their army in the countryside.

 And of course clashes did occur in Upper Nile that caused a big scare in the country.

Nyatapa John Biel left the IDP at the UN House in Juba as a result of the relative security brought in by peace implementation but she is now scared of living outside the POC over the political agitations.

“This is not what I expected when I left the POC in December 2020,” the 25 year old mother of 3 children told Juba Echo in an interview.

“I hope the leaders just continue dialogue so that they resolve all issues amicably.”

The fighting which occurred between the SPLM-IO and government forces in Upper Nile last Friday where the first since a ceasefire was reached in December 2017, before the grand peace deal the following year.

President Salva Kiir called a press conference in Juba on Monday, noting he will never take back the country to war, but also said the best way going forward is to root for reconciliation and accountability.

“I have come before you today to affirm my government commitment to peace in our country,” Kiir said.

“In many of my public remarks I have pledged that I will not deliberately return  this country back to war and I will remain committed to this pledge,” he said, adding, “There are challenges, but we need to confront honestly as a people along with our peace partners to maintain total peace and bring prosperity to our people.”

His comments came as a reassurance especially hours after Machar announced his home had been surrounded the night before with heavy armored machinery without his consultation.

Machar said such action causes panic and tension, not only to his neighborhood but across South Sudan.

President Kiir’s office said it wasn’t for any bad intension but to alley issues which may arise if unscrupulous politicians decide to sabotage the peace agreement by going to make gunfire attacks around the residence.

President Kiir also said all information about the genesis of the crisis will be made public, in line with ensuring full accountability. 

“I am directing the NSS and its partner BRL law firm to classify all information about the conflict genesis in their possession, intercepted audios… this is very important so that the people of South Sudan know the truth and judge for themselves,” he said.

 Kan Gueh Kan also left the POC as a result of the peace agreement. Though scared with recent tensions, he remains optimistic the issues will be resolved amicably.

Kan Gueh Kan former resident of Protection of Civilian site

The 37 year old walked out of the POC in february 2020 “because there was peace implementation going on well,” he told Juba Echo.

“We are tired of war and politicians should learn from their past experiences and sit at the table to solve their differences,” he said.

“I have to encourage two parties that peace is love, justice. We are not ready to go for war.”

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