UN peacekeepers provide comfort to IDPs
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) seeking sanctuary at a Catholic church in Rimenze are grateful to UN peacekeepers for their willingness to stay with them overnight in what they describe as “hell on earth”.
The community took refuge at the local church in Western Equatoria after fighting erupted in January. They say members of their families were killed by armed forces and their homes were looted and burnt to the ground.
Peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently visited them and stayed at the camp overnight.
Parish Priest, Father Victor Babie, said that this was the first time anyone had thought to spend a night with the IDPs and he hoped it would happen more regularly in future.
“We are grateful to UNMISS for having the courage to visit the IDPs and spend the night. The team has shown compassion and solidarity towards the IDPs in the dire situation they face,” he said.
“Many people regard this place as hell on earth and because of that they would not want to come here. UNMISS looked beyond this and came.”
Rebecca Gumerete, who lives at the church camp, said she slept peacefully for the first time in months because of the presence of the UN peacekeepers. She would like UNMISS to have a more permanent presence in the area so that people feel safe enough to return to their homes and farms.
The UNMISS team also visited displaced people at another local church in Bangusu after armed men in uniforms attacked their homes last month. They have spent almost two months without adequate food, shelter, and medical care. The IDPs are urging humanitarian agencies to provide them with food and better shelter as many women and children are living in shelters covered with leaves and grass, exposed to the cooler temperatures and mosquitos in rainy season.
Father Babie is urging the warring parties to end the conflict so that people can go back to their homes and work to develop the country.
“Innocent civilians are suffering from this senseless conflict,” he said.
By Phillip Mbugo