Reaching communities isolated by the long rainy season

15 Apr 2011

imageThe Governor of Upper Nile (centre) on one of the boats.

When the rains come, Upper Nile State is a lonely place. In the remote north-east of South Sudan, the state's roads become all but useless, and clashes between militias and the army make movement on foot potentially dangerous.

Since the peaceful independence referendum in January 2011, violence has returned to Upper Nile, even to the state capital Malakal, which has seen skirmishes between the army and rebel groups.

A local authority, the South Sudan Bureau for Community Security and Small Arms Control, is working to improve security in the area. The group met with local communities, who said that a lack of a police presence was a major concern. The intense rainy season makes policing the state a difficult task.

In response, UNDP, which supports the Bureau, provided more than $190,000 for nine boats that were given to nine county commissioners in Upper Nile on 8 April. These boats will be used to patrol and investigate incidents of violence and insecurity, while providing emergency services for the local community, such as transporting sick people to hospital.

“This initiative is a key element of statebuilding,” said UNDP’s Head of Office, Joe Feeney. “Strengthening the authority of the State is crucial for addressing the challenges that will be faced by the new Republic of South Sudan.”  This solution promotes peace and will play a key role in improving the mobility of government, according to Major General Daniel Deng Lual, the Bureau’s chief, “so that the effectiveness of government can be felt among our communities.”

The state government, too, was delighted with the boats. “This is the beginning of the country we are going to have in two to three months,” said James Ruac Kun, Upper Nile Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement.  Other activities that UNDP is supporting in Upper Nile include eight new police posts that are under construction in four counties, as well as agricultural projects in six counties. Three remaining counties opted for water projects, and assessments are underway.

Upper Nile is determined to address some of its own security issues, said State Governor Simon Kun Puoch, though some challenges are daunting.  These include managing the state’s porous border with Ethiopia and soon, the new north-south international border. Thanks to the boats, along with vehicles previously provided by UNDP, the Governor said, “We are in better shape now to safeguard the security of our people. This is one of the best solutions ever done, by any organization.”