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UN Peacekeeping Chief Roots for Lasting Peace in South Sudan

FILE - A family try to cross a flooded area after the Nile river overflowed after continuous heavy rain which caused thousands of people to be displaced in Bor, central South Sudan, Aug. 9, 2020.
FILE - A family try to cross a flooded area after the Nile river overflowed after continuous heavy rain which caused thousands of people to be displaced in Bor, central South Sudan, Aug. 9, 2020.

The United Nations head of peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, has wrapped up a visit to South Sudan where he called for greater efforts to stabilize the war-torn country. South Sudan is struggling with the impact of climate change in addition to intercommunal conflicts, all of which have led to a growing need for humanitarian aid.

During his official visit, Lacroix traveled to the town of Bor in Jonglei state, where communities have been gravely impacted by cattle raids, flooding and a lack of basic resources.

Lacroix met with U.N. personnel, humanitarian partners and the donor community and said he hopes to encourage more progress in South Sudan's ongoing peace process.

"There are many urgent humanitarian crises around the world, but the political and financial resources that are available to cope with this crisis are by definition limited. And therefore, our advocacy will be strong," Lacroix said.

He added that "We do recognize there is an expectation from the international community to support South Sudan, that there has to be a sense that there is a way forward. The ultimate solution is political. We have recognized several positive steps in the revitalized agreement, and we realize that a lot needs to be done."

Climate shocks have made South Sudan's dire humanitarian situation worse as the country deals with some of the worst flooding in nearly a century.

At the same time, intercommunal violence continues to create emergencies where the United Nations Mission in South Sudan — UNMISS — attempts to protect the civilians.

According to Lacroix, his trip allowed him to see firsthand the negative impact of climate change on peace efforts. Farmers and cattlemen compete for space as drought and flooding change migration paths, fueling conflict.

Lacroix acknowledged that South Sudan has suffered greatly as a result of climate change and said more technical assistance and funding are required to assist the country in coping with the climatic shocks.

The U.N. Secretary-General's Chief-of-Staff Courtenay Rattray, who came with the U.N. peacekeeping chief to Jonglei, described hearing complaints from the people about a lack of food, inadequate shelter and a shortage of vital medical items.

Rattray stated that there is an urgent need to find ways to lay the groundwork for South Sudan's growth and stability, and that "Stability has to come with a sense of participation by all stakeholders in the outcome of the political process."

Rattray added that "That has to come with a sense of inclusion as the foundational pillar, building democratic institutions, and having an electoral process that people believe in so that it has the legitimacy that it needs."

Martin Elia Lomuro, South Sudan's Minister of Cabinet Affairs, said there has been progress toward improving people's lives, but quickly added that the government's top priority is to keep the peace. He said that it must "focus on taking the country toward elections. And that means we have to work to provide a secure environment in terms of the security of the geopolitical territory of South Sudan, providing security to our citizens, the police ... taking care of the security of the country."

South Sudan is still recovering from five-and-a-half years of civil war, which displaced several million people. And implementation of the peace deal has been slow, raising concerns of new fighting and further instability.

Lacroix emphasized the importance of recovery and resilience, and expressed hope that with continued international support, the children of South Sudan can look forward to brighter, more prosperous lives.