UN says presence of its peacekeepers in war-torn S. Sudan encourages the displaced persons to return

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[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Wednesday said thousands of civilians have returned to country’s border town of Yei since the renewed clashes of July 2016. UNMISS boss David Shearer told journalists that the number of displaced persons returning to once tense area have enormously increased due to costly presence of UN troops in the region that was termed as a scene of genocide by UN agencies.

“Our field officer has supported local leaders working to put a stop fighting in the region and to kick-start peace talks between armed groups,” said Shearer.

According to the UN, some four million civilians have been displaced, two million live in internally displaced camps and 1.9 million are refugees in neighboring countries like Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

“Our troops have already been on the ground for a couple of months and construction of the base itself will be fully completed soon,” he revealed.

Shearer stressed that the mission is not just sitting in the base but the troops are doing regularly patrolling around the region. "This has helped already to build the confidence of local people to return with many civilians coming back into Yei. It also enabled the opening up of the Juba-Yei road " he said.

The head of the UN peacekeeping body said that the mission has been vigorously engaged with commanders of the organized forces in the area to improve their relationship with the local community.

“This included fixing the Juba-Yei road before we opened the Yei base. As I have said, roads not only enable local motorists and traders to travel safely, but also support the ability of communities to come together for peace talks at grassroots level,” Shearer explained.

UNMISS head also mentioned that they have dispatched a team in Addis Ababa working alongside Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) and armed groups before resumption of peace talks on Feb.5 to help locate forces and ensure that the contact information for commanders and troops on the ground is collected.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between soldiers loyal to Kiir and those loyal to Machar. The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

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