Angry, hungry and tired of conflict, Yei residents bemoan new displacements in the area

It was a hard day to describe, as men in uniform surrounded our village in pick-up cars and armoured personnel carriers, shooting everywhere at random. I escaped alone, leaving all my four children behind, two of them arriving in Yei town a week later, said a 39-year-old mother of four and resident of Pisak village, Rose Tumalu, breaking down into tears as she narrated her ordeal.

Ms. Tumalu is one of the recently-displaced residents of Yei. Two of her children, some relatives told her, were surviving in the hands of good Samaritans in the woods.

I do not know the kind of future we are going to lead. This is the third time in a row that I am escaping death in less than a year, she said.

It was a mission to beat people and loot goats, chicken, bicycles and food like cassava and beans, and whatever they could find. They burnt what they could not carry along, said Jackson Batali Solomon, resident of Logo village of Otogo County now displaced to Yei town.

We ran in disarray. It is terribly sad, so we are here, sheltering under trees, verandas and sometimes in the open, with literally nothing to eat. This war that kills civilians and destroys their property is something hard to imagine now.

Most of the displaced people are women, children and the elderly.

They were trekking through the jungles for the whole day to reach Yei, arriving totally dehydrated, very hungry and dried up. I nearly shed tears, said Hillary Luate Adeba, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s Diocese of Yei, describing the plight of the arrivals.

But Jackson Batali Solomon blamed the government security agencies for mistreating them by claiming they were spies and opposition sympathizers, and he has a strong message to all warrying parties: We are not supporting opposition forces, nor are we politicians. We are farmers who use our traditional implements like hoes to feed ourselves and send our children to school. We even fed the South Sudan army during the war of liberation from Sudan to achieve our independence.

The Bishop, now the only source of respite in their destitution, has become a witness to this new spate of suffering.

It is unfortunate that people can be uprooted from their livelihoods at a time that everyone has high hopes for peace, and when people are considering returning home. The signed peace has failed to stop the displacement and suffering of our people, said Bishop Hillary Luate Adeba.

The displacement is taking a huge toll on children, too.

You can see that our children are no longer going to schooland you know that any child who has not seen even a nursery class at the age of 12 has been killed in the mind, said Jackson Batali Solomon, adding that the conflict was taking a terrible toll on the children’s mental health, with nightmares becoming a constant in their sleep.

Whenever they wake up in their dreams, they cry out loud as they tell us tales of bad dreams of being beaten, tortured or being chased by gunmen, he said.

Even elderly people are traumatized by the sound of moving vehicles, as that has become synonymous with death. We don’t want to hear any sound of a vehicleeven dogs, goats and chickens now hide from it, and this is the peace we are talking about? Mr. Solomon questioned.

An old person like me is dead physically and mentally, but will presidents, governors, and doctors not come out of these children? Why do we want to kill their minds � and their bodies as well? The suffering has already reduced us to mere living corpses!

Whilst efforts by humanitarian actors are afoot to support the displaced communities in Yei, there is considerable goodwill from the host communities, as they contributed food items, clothes and many other items through Bishop Adeba’s church. But such support is limited and unsustainable.

The number of arrivals overwhelmed the church as we didn’t have facilities to accommodate them. We didn’t have ready food, water and medical support for the children, mothers and expectant women, some of whom were in severe pain due to the daylong walk. You can imagine this kind of life! exclaimed Bishop Adeba.

He added that most of the aid is of non-food items, emphasizing the importance of food: What do you do with a jerrycan if you have no water to draw? And what do you do with a saucepan if you have no food to cook? Just think of the cost of giving this population of 1,361 individuals two meals a day!

On the other hand, Arthur Beingana, United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s Human Rights Officer at Yei Base, said that the peacekeepers have continued to intensify their patrols within Yei town and to areas worst affected by the displacement.

We have, so far, visited Logo, Pisak, Goli and Mile 16 to assess the security and relief needs, as we have had from our warning indicators that displacement was likely in those areas due to government operations against armed elements, Mr. Beingana said.

The patrols seem to be paying off.

We were able to make early warning reports to alert the state authorities to ensure that their cardinal role would be to protect the lives of civilians in those affected areas, said Beingana, urging all armed elements to embark on a broad-based dialogue to seek a long-term political solution that would pave the way for the implementation of the peace agreement to prevent further atrocities.

People talk of peace, but the displacement I see happening today tells me that peace has not been achieved yet. We need just peace from our leaders, so that we can go back home to live in peace and harmony and rebuild our livelihoods without the fear of the gun, Ms. Rose Tumalu concluded.

Source: UN Mission in Sudan

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