UNDP strengthens democratic engagement and participation of communities in Internally Displaced Persons campsDec 13, 2015
JUBA: “If there is peace, there is development and peaceful co-existence among the communities," said 37-year-old, mother of eight, Mary Nyagena, at a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported community dialogue held at the Mangateen (1) Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Juba. Mary, who is an internally displaced person, is originally from Unity State, located in northern South Sudan. She is of the Nuer tribe and has been living in the Mangateen (1) IDP camp with her family since 17 May 2015, after fleeing conflict which erupted in her community in Bentiu town on 10 January 2014. As one of the 29 people living in the IDP camp who attended the community dialogue with the Member of Parliament from Unity State, Hon. Nyuon Janguan Luoy, Mary ensured she was present to express her opinions on access to land for resettlement; the living conditions in the camp; and to urge for peace.
The series of community dialogues which take place in two Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites and two IDP camps in Juba, are managed by the Integrated Development Organisation (IDO), with technical support from UNDP's Community Security and Arms Control Project (CSAC), and with generous funds via small grants from the Government of Sweden. Since October 2015, the community dialogues are held with selected community leaders based on their different ethnic groups, age and gender. “The immediate result that we expect to see from these community dialogues is that those directly affected by conflict, increase dialogue among themselves and are able to manage their conflicts peacefully,” said IDO Project Manager, Gai Makiew Gai. “It is hoped that they participate in the ongoing political, peace and state building processes and engage with key local and national stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard and their concerns addressed,” he stated. In addition to the community dialogues with politicians, the small grants enable the IDO to conduct inter-generational and inter-communal peace dialogues; monthly issue-based peace forums; trainings for the peace committee, mobilisers and community leaders; and training for the camp crisis management committee.
The community dialogue in Mangateen (1) IDP camp took place in one of the large blue tents assigned for such community meetings, and is located at the entrance of the camp. The community leaders, of which many spoke fluent English and Juba Arabic, listened attentively to the Unity State MP’s opening remarks before taking it in turns to raise their questions and concerns. During the dialogue, the community leaders raised their concerns about the lack of food, access to clean water, toilets and medical treatment, highlighting that the conditions in the camp needed to be improved. In relation to peace, Peter Doul, the Deputy Camp Manager, who is responsible for around 20,000 IDPs living in the camp stated, “What brought us here today is the issue of peace. Peace is paramount to all of us.”
Mary, a selected community leader stated, "The consequences of war are severe. Disease, death and poverty is everywhere and are a clear result of war. The fighting has to stop.” In response, the Hon. Nyuon Janguan Luoy MP said, “Peace itself is a priority to us. As a citizen and as a MP of South Sudan, the issues raised by all of you are very important, and I am listening to your concerns.” Upon hearing the MP’s response Mary looked on deep in thought, because for her, peace could not come any sooner. Her journey to the Mangateen IDP camp had been a long and harrowing one; a journey she and her family would never forget.
“I was at my home in Bentiu town feeding my newborn baby when I heard gun shots and screams coming from the nearby homes. Frantically, not knowing what was happening, I shouted for my children who had been playing outside to come inside the house. Together, my 71-year-old mother, my husband and I, and our eight children fled our home with none of our possessions but the clothes on our backs. We ran to hide in the dense bush for safety,” recalled Mary whilst sitting on her bed in the family’s tent in the IDP camp.
Mary, who used to work as a volunteer teacher for Mercy Corps, and farm maize and sorghum said, “Many of my neighbours also fled to the bush, and all along we were pursued by soldiers who kept shooting at us. We just kept running while dodging the bullets. As we travelled through various villages, we were also under attack from armed civilians,” she added.
The family’s journey to Mayom county was determined by the fighting. When the fighting between the warring factions was occurring, the family was moving, and when the fighting stopped, the family rested. From Bentui town, Mary and her family travelled east to Guit county, and onwards to Leer county. From Leer they walked to Koch county and from Koch, they walked to Mayom county. Within the space of two months, the family, including Mary’s 71-year-old mother, her husband and eight children aged from six months to 16 years, had walked a total of 152km. They survived by drinking water from swamps and rivers, and received food through the generosity of villagers along the way. “On the journey to Mayom, the children and my mother fell ill and we had no means of treatment. It was a very tough time for me and my husband,” said Mary emotionally.
Once in Mayom county, the family managed to avoid the conflict which had intensified between the warring factions, where people, including women and children were being killed indiscriminately. They fled to Riak Payam to escape the exchanges of artillery. “During those two months, I witnessed a lot of killings. Even if someone was carrying a small handbag, they would be murdered by the armed civilians for it. The children also witnessed these killings and are still seriously traumatised by them,” explained Mary. The family stayed in Mayom county until August 2014, until they were spotted and airlifted directly to the UN Mission’s PoC site in Juba, but Mary’s husband remained in Mayom. After living on the PoC site for four months, the family moved to the Mangateen (1) IDP camp and were provided with a tent, food, water, cooking pans and a cook-stove. Every thirty days the family receives maize, flour, lentils and cooking oil.
Whilst Mary’s husband lives in Mayom county, he visits the family once in a while to give her money earned from his various jobs. In the IDP camp the children attend a temporary school, in addition to being taught by educated members also living there. “For my family, if there is peace, the children can have access to good schooling and healthcare. We would have a home and be able to enjoy our lives. I just want to return to Bentiu to resume my normal duties so I can support my family,” remarked Mary. “The living environment in the tent is too small for us all to move around freely. We desperately want the war to end so we can live in our own home. As an IDP we feel like outsiders in our own country. We are perceived as refugees, even though we were a part of the liberation [struggle],” said Mary as she gazes at her children, wondering what the future lies ahead of them.
Ms. Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist
UNDP South Sudan
Mobile: +1 (211) 922 411934