Here is my second update on the South Sudan fighting in Pibor, Jonglie state.
Counter Offensive in LWF project areas – I received reports yesterday that the Murle groups have started with counter offensive attacks in Lou Nuer regions, of which some areas are in our direct project areas, and therefore this is of great concern to me. Our staff in Panyagor base are safely in our compound and I am keeping contact at all times. Michael Mading our Emergency Coordinator took part in the UN Cluster meetings on NFis in Pibor town. The NGOs making up this UN cluster are so far SCISS, Intersos, NPA, UNHCR PAH, and ourselves. We are also going to take part in other cluster meetings at Juba level as well.
IDPs in Pibor Town – The reports on the ground say over the weekend that people are slowly returning to Pibor town, but many have fled into the bush and are still there. It is extremely difficult to reach these people as there are virtually no roads or airstrips. They may well be lacking even the most basic supplies and services. We urge the authorities to continue their efforts to guarantee security in the area and help the population affected by the fighting to resume their normal lives. Those now returning to Pibor town are mainly internally displaced persons from Linkwagole, Gurmuruk and Pastrolisits who lost their cattle to white army “Lou Nuer” during raids.
Coordination – Coming from the NFI cluster coordination, we have pledged to supply 200 NFI kits (supplied through ACT Alliance appeal) to IDPs from our existing stocks in Pibor, and will team up with the NGO Intersos to carry out registration, verification and distribution of NFI and WASH items in Pibor. Our Emergency Officer will be coordinating these activities on our behalf, and we are going to partner with local CBO called “National Development Foundation (NDF) who will do the direct implementation.
Neglected communities – I think first one must note that part of the reason for the conflict is that the Murle feel they have been bypassed by aid and development over the last few years. Pibor town is pretty underdeveloped and as far as I could see when I was there before Christmas there was only one NGO there, MSF-B running a clinic. Smaller towns in Pibor County had even less development. So part of the long-term conflict resolution process is to make the Murle feel less marginalised.
Immediate and longer term needs – Of course food, shelter, etc are short-term priorities which we will try and respond to as so many people have been displaced. But if LWF does move into a “recovery” phase we will have to design programs with a conflict mitigation role, then more general developmental activities within in Pibor County (and not only within Pibor town), would be a priority. These include health, education, water, veterinary services and other livestock-related interventions, food security, communications, etc.Empowerment and capacity-building of local government is also essential.
Through our contact with SCC and with Rev John Dau regarding the SCC peace process, led by Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, there is a need to support the peace mobilisers into the rural areas to liaise with the rural youth, who are the main protagonists in the current conflict. This process may unearth fresh humanitarian and developmental needs in new geographical areas of the county.
Preliminary ACT Appeal – This week my team and I will endeavor to finalize an ACT preliminary appeal which we will send to the ACT Sec in Geneva and in addition put in proposals into the UN system. We are pleased to see the “Alert” issued out on Friday to the ACT Alliance members. I will be discussing with Michael Hyden in Geneva whether we can deploy Ms Melany Markham the communicator we used in Kenya and Ethiopia recently. She is on standby to come down for a short while to support us in our communications.
I will keep you all posted.
Arie Den Toom
LWF South Sudan Country Representative