Juba, February 14, 2019 (SSNA) — The recently signed peace deal should not be used to force South Sudanese who live in Protection of Civilians Sites (POCS) to go back to their homes as there is no guarantee for their safety, a new study provided to the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) today says.
The memo titled, The Future of Protection of Civilians Sites: Protecting displaced people after South Sudan’s peace deal, was conducted by Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics (LSE) with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). The document addresses the future of people who live in the POCs and the roles public authority plays between POCs residents and the United Nation, the international community and the South Sudanese government.
The researchers talked to residents in Bentiu, Juba, Wau, and Malakal. These four POCs, according to the report, housed almost 200,000 people with Bentiu being the biggest with nearly 115,000 residents. The report recommends that closure of POCS should not be urgent and urges for voluntary return.
“The memo is based on research in Juba, Bentiu, Malakal and Wau. The memo recommends that: (a) POCS should not be quickly closed and returns should not be coerced; (b) the diverse public authorities in the POCS should be engaged in debates and decisions about protection and returns; (c) those planning for returns should take into account the need to support diverse public authorities to work together;(d) the UN and humanitarians should anticipate future violence against civilians and therefore develop ongoing protection of civilians plans; and (e) all planning should be realistic about the complexities of governing in the POCS,” the memo reads in part.
In the report, the researchers explain that the September 2018 peace agreement is good but warn that “the protection of civilians in South Sudan remains deeply uncertain,” despite the agreement. The memo also finds that it is not enough for the parties to the deal to simply promise refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) that their returns will be safe and dignified.
In the report, researchers find that the political environment in the war-wracked young nation remains “violent and turbulent.”
“The] R-ARCSS, 2018 deal does not change the underlying violent and kleptocratic nature of the political system. Even since the signing of the agreement there have been violations, including mass rapes in Bentiu in November 2018. South Sudanese and their leaders will take this into account as they consider questions of return and protection. The SPLA-IO’s political incentives to encourage return mean that they maynot prioritise protection in the same way,” the memo explains.
The document reveals that there are 29,200 people in Malakal POC, more than 32,000 people in Juba POC, and nearly 115,000 residents in Bentiu. The document adds that a smaller number of people live in POCs located in Wau and Bor.
The research also praises the roles of local chiefs in the POCs, pointing out a case that involved a pro-government and anti-government family in Bentiu, saying the case was peacefully settled by the local chiefs.