SOUTH SUDAN / LANDMINES

13-May-2022 00:04:12
While great progress has been made to remove all known landmines and other explosive remnants of war in South Sudan, some of the country’s communities are still endangered by their presence. Ilene Cohn, Acting Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, UNMAS, recently visited one of them, Gondokoro near the capital Juba, as part of her assessment of mine action activities in the youngest nation of the world. UNMISS
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STORY: SOUTH SUDAN / LANDMINES
TRT: 04:12
SOURCE: UNMISS
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGES: ENGLISH / NAT

DATELINE: 10 MAY 2022, GONDOKORO, SOUTH SUDAN
SHOTLIST
1. Various shots, cattle owners and UNMAS officials
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Ilene Cohn, Acting Director, UNMAS:
“The anti-tank mine that started the work here surfaced in the process of road construction. Road construction is absolutely vital to the development of this country. When the country was born the amount of accessible road and in particularly paved roads was exceedingly small. Transport [and] mobility of the population depends on these roads. This is a very important road piece of road – the development of which was going smoothly until an antitank mine was found, triggering the need to further clear in a very careful and methodical way that requires a certain amount of expertise and machinery and a good amount of resources and time.”
3. Various shots, UNMAS Acting Director
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Ilene Cohn, Acting Director, UNMAS:
“I am here to understand directly how UNMISS peacekeeping operation and National Mine Action Authority are collaborating to ensure that the communities living in this area using this land for agriculture and for cattle farming and in particular hoping that the road they want to use is safely built and made safe for their mobility, will be collaboratively cleared of the anti-tank mines that surprisingly came to the surface and came to our attention some years ago.”
5. Various shots, mine clearing
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Jurkuch Barach, Chairperson, National Mines Action Authority (NMAA):
“After I came in April, we got about 34 anti-tank mines removed in this area. Today they are 49, almost 50. This shows that there is a commitment of those who are working, the community, the government of the South and the NGOs or commercial companies working in the area. We are very pleased, but we also ask for more, so that we do more.”
7. Various shots, contaminated areas
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Jurkuch Barach, Chairperson, National Mines Action Authority (NMAA):
“[If] you have landmines in an area, nobody will take a step in this area until we make sure that they have been removed. This is why we become very happy when we get support from UNMISS, UNMAS and the international community to get this project done so that people will be moving freely in the area.”
9. Various shots, flooded contaminated landmine area
STORYLINE
Residents in Gondokoro, some 25 kilometres from South Sudan’s capital Juba, are on alert. What is now used as a cattle camp and pasture was one of many battlefields when what was then Southern Sudan fought for independence.

Following a series of mine accidents in 2016, a nearby feeder road was abandoned. Living in Gondokoro means being aware of the dangers left behind from the war, but a recent discovery has raised the levels of fear. An anti-tank mine, capable of much death and destruction, has been found. If accidentally detonated, its fragments can impact and contaminate an area of up to one square kilometre.

The UN Mine Action Service, UNMAS, has operated in the area for a long time, removing explosive hazards and educating the community about the risks posed by mines. Now, its best deminers are here to safely excavate and demolish the expertly disguised metallic beast.

A better place to observe and assess the work and the impact of the efforts of deminers is hard to find. For this reason, Ilene Cohn, the UNMAS Acting Director, on her visit to South Sudan, went to Gondokoro.

SOUNDBITE (English) Ilene Cohn, Acting Director, UNMAS:
“The anti-tank mine that started the work here surfaced in the process of road construction. Roads are absolutely vital to the development of this country. Transport [and] mobility of the population depends on them. This is a very important piece of road – the development of which was going smoothly until an antitank mine was found. It triggered the need to further clear in a very careful and methodical way that requires a certain amount of expertise and machinery and a good amount of resources and time.”

Her visit to South Sudan was also aimed at assessing the impact of UNMAS activities and how to further improve the organization’s contributions to both the United Nation’s Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to humanitarian and development actors. Ultimately, the work of UNMAS is improve the lives of the people living in the country by clearing mines and allowing citizens to move, farm and go about their lives freely and safely.

SOUNDBITE (English) Ilene Cohn, Acting Director, UNMAS:
“I am here to understand directly how the UNMISS peacekeeping operation and the National Mine Action Authority are collaborating to ensure that the communities living in this area can use this land for agriculture and for cattle farming. I’m hoping that the road they want to use is safely built and will be collaboratively cleared of the anti-tank mines that surprisingly came to the surface and to our attention some years ago.”

Removing explosive hazards from Gondokoro will enable road construction companies to continue their activities, cattle herders to return to their camps, and the local population to resume normal life.

SOUNDBITE (English) Jurkuch Barach, Chairperson, National Mines Action Authority (NMAA):
“After I came in April, we got about 34 anti-tank mines removed in this area. This shows that there is a commitment of the community, the government of South Sudan, the NGOs and commercial companies working in the area. We are very pleased, but we also ask for more, so that we can do more.”

Mines and other unexploded ordnances still make areas of South Sudan dangerous to travel. That affects everything from farming to aid distribution to the resettlement of residents returning home after having fled violence and sometimes floods.

SOUNDBITE (English) Jurkuch Barach, Chairperson, National Mines Action Authority (NMAA):
“[If] you have landmines in an area, nobody will take a step in this area until we make sure that they have been removed. This is why we become very happy when we get support from UNMISS, UNMAS and the international community to get this project done so that people will be moving freely in the area.”

Outbursts of intercommunal violence at the subnational level and a long rainy season making many roads impassable mean that the United Nations Mine Action Service and its various partners often have limited access to sites where demining is deemed necessary. While such obstacles hamper efforts to remove dangerous explosives, UNMAS and South Sudan remain on course to reach the goal the country has committed to: a South Sudan free of landmines and other unexploded ordnances by July 2026.
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