JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) called on the government to step up security measures in Boma to allow NGOs, aid organizations and residents to return to the town in Jonglei state, weeks after government forces recaptured it from rebels led by David Yau Yau.
U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations pulled out of Boma weeks ago to escape fighting between government forces and Yau Yau's rebels who call themselves the South Sudan Democratic Movement.
UNMISS representatives visited the psychologically important town last week to assess the security situation and determine whether conditions are right for UNMISS and other humanitarian agencies to return to the area.
UNMISS noted during its visit that “there has been a lot of looting... a lot of burning of tukuls and vandalism that we condemn," spokeswoman Ariane Quentier said.
"The other issue of concern is the fact that the civilians have left the town because of the fighting and the insecurity and they haven’t come back. We really hope that the civilians will come back very soon.”
Quentier said the few residents who did not flee have no services available to them.
But she said that UNMISS has determined that security is good enough to allow locals and aid organizations to return.
“UNMISS will be resuming its operations in Boma among other things to try to make sure that communities reconcile and that there is again an improvement in security and that life starts again in Boma," she said.
Rebels overran Boma in the first week of May, but the town was recaptured by the South Sudanese army on May 18 after days of fighting.
With calm restored, the government has to step in and ensure that local authorities are able to function properly again, Quentier said, pledging UNMISS's help to achieve that.
Boma is of key psychological importance in South Sudan: it was the first town the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) captured from the Sudan Armed Forces during the long civil war against Khartoum. The SPLA, which is now the South Sudanese Army, took the town in 1985 and held it until the war ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.