Opposition forces based in the Eastern Equatorian region of South Sudan have pledged to uphold human rights from the command level right through to the rank and file following a workshop hosted by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the conflict-affected country.
“It’s time to submit to this country and do the right thing so that South Sudan can stand proud amongst other nations as it was in the beginning,” said Brigadier General Okeny George Lam, division commander for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, based at Ashwa cantonment site.
“This workshop explains why we need to respect human rights. We pray that what we have learnt here translates into action, so we can become a professional army that respects the sovereign nature of its citizens, even as we near unification,” he added.
The commitment by the troops came after a training session conducted by the Human Rights Division of UNMISS on command responsibilities, understanding human rights principles and standards as well as international humanitarian law.
“As a female military officer, I know what difficulties women experienced during the conflict, including being faced with different forms of harassments and violence. It is our duty to ensure that the vulnerable such as women and children are protected,” said Major Joyce Festo Hakim, one of the high-ranking female officers at Ashwa cantonment site.
The UN peacekeepers conducted the forum to enlighten the opposition forces on the military’s role in maintaining law and order within the legal framework of South Sudan.
“The birth of South Sudan was only possible because of human rights. Your first struggle as a people was for equality. Our concern now revolves around how much you have done to respect and protect the human rights of the ordinary citizen,” said UNMISS human rights officer, Anthony Nwapa.