Inside a UNMISS protest

While Diplomats at the United Nation’s Security Council discuss how best to reinforce the UN Mission in South Sudan, the dissident voices of South Sudanese citizens seems to be muzzled. The coverage on the Protests held in Juba on 20th July against the proposals for an intervention force in South Sudan, stated that it was organised by the SPLM and little else was said about their messages. The Government of South Sudan rejected a proposal made by USA for the deployment of 4000 more peace keepers on the grounds that it had accepted the deployment of regional forces as stated in the IGAD communique forwarded to the Security Council.

Amidst all this politics, one things remains certain, the interest of ordinary South Sudanese has been misrepresented. Media reports have been more concerned with the atrocities of the war, who bears the blame for war crimes and what can the international community do. The protests against UNMISS comes days after heavy fighting occurring at it’s doorsteps, the peace keeper’s being helpless in the face of the brutal fighting from the first day to the last. Earlier reports stated that UNMISS had destroyed two SPLA tanks which had been used in the Sunday attack, reports which UNMISS refuted saying that the Opposition soldiers would hide under fences and resume firing on the soldiers. A search by the UNPOL and UNAMID produced weapons hidden within the UNMISS compound.

The organisers of the protests against UNMISS had indeed been misrepresented as SPLM. I attended the protests where I met Mr. Valentino Mathew Deng, a member of the Civil Society Alliance. At 10 AM as the protesters were being mobilised I arrived at the Garang Mausoleum which had been the designated congregation point. Several buses had been lined up as Protesters wrote their messages on placards and were ushered into the busses. The busses themselves had be adorned with messages of their own as they cruised down airport road towards the UNMISS in Tongpiny.

 

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Although many businesses and offices along the airport road had not yet been opened following the fighting on 7-11 July, the streets were lined with people watching as the procession moved. A UN car heading towards Tongpiny turned around and drove away as the protesters inside the bus jeered at its hasty retreat. The youth had organised for speakers and microphones blasting South Sudanese music, while the MC called on the “Junubin” to support the President in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. A marching band was also present playing “Surrender we shall never… never never never, Surrender we shall never…”

Women, the youth and even old women carried placards. Some advocating for peace, others outrightly denouncing the proposal for more peacekeepers and foreign intervention, and calls for UNMISS to go. A young man shouted over the loud speaker to the advancing audience, “As the Youth and a citizen of this country, we don’t want intervention from America, Canada, Australia. All of us we can solve our problems.” It was a message being echoed around by many of the protesters either written down or shouted as the procession went to the UNMISS gate.

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Chiefs, women groups and church groups also attended the protest, calling for support for the implementation of the Peace Agreement. The chiefs, with red ribbons tied around their torso stood in the crowd. The message was overwhelming support for the Government in the Implementation of the Peace Agreement signed in August 2015. It was a remarkable scene outside the UNMISS compound, the young and old had congregated in fanfare to protest against a proposal that only a month later was presented to the UN Security Council.

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