Two years into the formation of South Sudan’s transitional government of national unity, efforts are ongoing to consolidate peace gains and ensure stability for communities across the world’s youngest nation.
To maximize the current political environment, the South Sudan Multi Partner Trust Fund for Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Resilience (RSRTF) was established in 2019.
It’s main aim: Actioning integrated programmes that reduce destructive drivers of conflict and develop more peaceful and self-reliant communities.
In Koch, Unity state, the RSRTF, together with partners and stakeholders, is focusing on fostering trust, reconciliation and boosting essential services to encourage community members who were displaced when violence erupted in 2013, to return to their original settlements.
“When conflict was at its peak, Koch became almost like a ghost town,” recalls Gordon Gatkuoth, Deputy County Commissioner.
“People fled in fear of their lives and the entire area was almost deserted,” he continues. “Much has, however, changed since then. There is a relative peace and our children can go to school; thanks to the first phase of work done by the RSRTF we are looking forward to more of our community members returning to their original homes.”
Partnerships form the bedrock of the ongoing work by RSRTF in Koch. The first phase of their interventions in Koch was implemented jointly by World Relief, Mercy Corps, Care International and South Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Universal Intervention and Development Organization.
These organizations came together to build resilience among communities living here, including women and youth, through vocational training, income-generating activities, promoting education and strengthening the local justice system.
“Initially, one of the major challenges we faced was the lack of education but now we have a school where our children who had dropped out during the conflict can resume learning and others can receive vocational training,” reveals Lomolo Pasquale Loromo, a teacher at the Second Chance Education Centre, which was constructed by World Relief.
Now, with the second phase of these community stabilization projects, launched in Koch on 22 February, UNMISS has become an active member of the consortium of implementing partners.
According to Jane Lanyero Kony, Acting Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Bentiu, UNMISS coming on board enhances the project in terms of a triple nexus approach, where peace, development and humanitarian actors jointly support conflict-affected communities.
“We believe this is an exciting opportunity for UNMISS to contribute to durable peace by leveraging already existing expertise and resources in protecting civilians, managing and resolving conflict as well as enhancing human rights and rule of law, as we work with all partners to help the people of Koch build resilience, skills and a better future,” she comments.
For Khalid Leila, Justice Adviser from the UNMISS Rule of Law Section a key area where the mission can make a tangible difference for communities—improving the traditional justice system. “There is no formal judicial system in Koch. Therefore, in the next two years, UNMISS will conduct mobile court sessions to deal with cases that traditional courts are not equipped to handle, plus train local police, prison and customary court officials on properly adjucating cases related to gender-based violence while upholding the rights of the accused and detainees,” he states.
Gatwech Lal, a legal officer from Koch is optimistic about this. “By training police and prison officers, UNMISS will contribute greatly to strengthening the way we handle legal matters and hopefully, this will mark the introduction of formal legal institutions in Koch County,” he elaborates.
Speaking to communities at the launch event, Dr Michael Tawanda from Norway, a key RSRTF donor, explained partner objectives succinctly.
“All of us are in Koch today is to make sure that, in the very near future, communities here are empowered enough not to need our presence,” he averred. “Our hope is that very soon, you will be able to take ownership of your development and promote peaceful coexistence far and wide.”