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Returnees in Torit area’s Pajok have appealed to South Sudanese authorities to bring services nearer and protect them from any imminent risk, so they can enjoy the dividends of the revitalized peace agreement, signed in Addis Ababa last year.
“Let our leaders concentrate on the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement so that our people can come back from the refugee camps. They are suffering; they don’t feel free there,” said Nelson Mandela, one of the returnees who had gathered under a kituba tree when a patrol of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reached Pajok, located in Torit area’s Ayaci County.
The integrated UNMISS patrol visited Pajok and Pogee to assess the security and humanitarian situation of the returnees, and to show the presence of peacekeepers, which is part of the mission’s mandate to protect the civilians.
During the patrol, the UNMISS Relief and Reintegration and Protection Unit, which deals with protection and reintegration of displaced people, conducted a two-day peace dialogue between host communities and returnees to foster peaceful coexistence among them.
Joseph Obote, a member of the host community, reaffirmed the commitment to live in peace:
“We want to live peacefully with our neighbouring communities so that we focus on farming to fill the food gap that was created by the conflict and insecurity in the area,” he said, adding, “We also want the authorities to rehabilitate schools and health facilities in order to access these services available here in Pajok.”
The September 2018 peace agreement was received with the hope of ending a five-year conflict to pave the way for voluntary returns of South Sudanese refugees to their homes.
And slowly, the displaced people have been returning home, but they want to be sure that they won’t be fleeing again.
Ayet Vicky who has just returned from Palabek refugees camp in Lamwo District of Northern Uganda appealed to the authorities and Humanitarian Agencies to support returnees so they can settle back home.
“We have no food, shelter, or medicine. We are appealing to Non-Governmental Organizations to give us food; there is no where we can go again. This is our land we have been facing a lot of problems in other people’s country.”
Returning home has become a new reality in Pajok as more than five hundred households are reported to have returned to settled back in their once deserted villages.
In December 2018, UNMISS organized a trust- and confidence-building dialogue in Pajok between the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) and SPLA-iO officials, aimed at bolstering peaceful co-existence and allowing service delivery to the citizens.
Torit area authorities have since relocated the SSDPF barracks that was established in Pajok to Lobone and Pogee border area to allow the return of refugees to their places.