Residents in the area have been raising concerns about the presence of the armed forces, accusing them of impregnating their girls, committing adultery, making animals disappear, randomly cutting down trees, hunting in the nearby bushes and other kinds of harassment.
“Soldiers always make our girls pregnant without marrying them. We have suggested that they consult the parents of any girls they are interested in before taking them away,” said Samuel Kur Makur, a local resident.
A County Chief of Gomjuer West, Peter Wek Bak, urged the forces gathered in Pantit to respect and cooperate with the local traditional leaders.
“Our trees are being cut down without informing us. Our cows and goats disappear when they pass through the centre [of the village],” the County Chief complained.
Angelina Achol Alich, another vocal local, expressed her frustration about men causing conflict in the country while their innocent wives and daughters bear the brunt of the violence and its many grave consequences. She suggested a radical solution.
“I would like to advise my fellow women in South Sudan to unify and boycott men. Stop giving birth till men stop fighting. We cannot give birth to children whose faith is doomed,” she argued.
These concerns were raised during a one-day workshop between civilians and armed forces, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The gathering came about amidst reports of rising tension between the two groups.
Ms. Achol welcomes the resolutions agreed on during the discussions: peaceful coexistence from now on, and the establishment of a civil-military committee which will meet on a weekly basis to solve any issues that may still arise.
Various representatives of the troops present at the meeting also agreed that the time for improved relations is now, and pledged to spread this message around their barracks.
The Pantit cantonment site, currently a joint training centre for government and opposition soldiers, is hosting more than 1,800 troops. Once trained, government and opposition forces will become one unified national army, as stated in the revitalized peace agreement signed in September 2018.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)