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A high-level delegation of the Embassy of Japan in South Sudan, the United Nations, and representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) visited Kasire Village in Rajaf, on the outskirts of Juba Town on 6 December, where it conducted a survey and risk education for the community, and demonstrated how unexploded ordnance (UXO) is destroyed.
“UNMAS’ work, with Japan funding, is very important for supporting refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) coming back to their own villages,” said the Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan, Seiji Okada, referring to the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). “Japan is committed to continue supporting the Peace Process through various forms of assistance, including assistance through UNMAS, so that people can safely come back and spend live peacefully,” added Mr. Okada.
Mr. Okada went ahead to explain why his country, Japan, was supporting the mine action programme.
“The reason Japan is supporting this programme is, Japan also has experienced this kind of big conflict or war in the past. In the case of Japan, instead of a small landmine, we experienced a much, much bigger bomb, called the atomic bomb,” the Japanese diplomat recounted to the villagers. “One drop of the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed hundred thousand people instantly,” he said, referring to the nuclear weapon tragedy at the end of the Second World War.
“We have that experience in Japan, and that’s why we know really, that kind of safety of people is very, very important. So, I hope that now you’ve learnt today, and that there will be no casualty in this village,” said the ambassador.
The Japanese ambassador also spoke about the hope generated by the signing, recently, of the revitalized peace agreement.
Appreciating the support provided by the UNMAS, the Director of the National Mine Action Authority was full of praise for the Government of Japan for its support over the years.
“It’s because of the support of the government of Japan, that the effects of mines have been reduced in the country – in the Republic of South Sudan,” said Mr. Henry Andrew Okwera, the Director General of the South Sudan National Mine Action Authority (NMAA). “The government of Japan is also supporting the mine risk education. That’s why the communities affected by mines know the danger of mines in South Sudan.”
The protracted war in South Sudan has left many civilians in a vulnerable state. According to the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of humanitarian affairs in South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou the objective now is to ensure the displaced people come back to their homes and rebuild their lives:
“There will be always many challenges,” said Mr. Noudéhou. “But the biggest positive thing is that you are in your village; you’re in your home, and you’re looking for the way to make it secure, and that’s why this whole action that you’re going through this morning, to try to really learn how to make sure you don’t get threatened by mines or an explosive device is a very important part of what you need to do to make sure your environment, your home, your village is secure for you to stay,” he explained.
Emphasising the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Mr. Noudéhou said, “Our aim as the United Nations is to help the population to feel safe, to protect civilians, and also to help you build durable peace in your country,” adding, “I am delighted to see the significant and generous financial contribution from the people of Japan put to such great use by Mine Action authorities in order to protect civilians and build durable peace in this part of Juba.”
“I hope that we can continue to build on this success and help more people return to live normal lives,” said Noudéhou.
The villagers could not hide their excitement and appreciation of the efforts undertaken by the UN Mine Action Service and the Government of Japan.
“We’re very happy because this is a very risky area,” said Mary Konyo. “Whenever we’re cultivating our land – for the case of agriculture – when you’re digging, sometimes you can find that there’re some unknown items down there, and you [wouldn’t] know what to do. But due to this education today, I can say that we’re now aware of some other things,” she said, citing the risk awareness education she had received about landmines and other explosive devices.
“Today we’re appreciating UNMAS for coming to help us on this issue. We have learnt a lot today because we didn’t know what to do if we got these kinds of landmines and explosive devices,” said Mathias Samson. “But today, we have acquired knowledge about what to do. This is for the benefit of the community of Kurumula today. Thank you very much.”