Empowering communities to trigger positive change from armed groups in South Sudan: a story of heightened safety and food security
21 July 2023
In Ikpiro, South Sudan, the empowerment of communities to advocate for their own rights and protection facilitated the relocation of an armed group. This led to a notable reduction in violence against civilians, resulting in an enhanced sense of safety and subsequently benefiting food security in the area.
Since 2013, South Sudan has been ravaged by a long-standing civil war, causing insecurity, displacement, and heightened danger within its borders. Recognizing the urgent need to protect civilians amidst the ongoing conflict, Geneva Call established a presence in the country in 2020, focusing on raising awareness about international humanitarian norms within communities.
In 2022, Geneva Call started to partner with a local organization called Passion for the Needy (PFN) to carry out impactful initiatives in Ikpiro, a suburb of Yambio, located in Western Equatoria, where several armed groups were active. Through community empowerment activities, which included capacity-building training for chiefs, women, and youth leaders on humanitarian norms, Geneva Call made significant strides in fostering community awareness of their rights and equipping them with tools to defend themselves against armed conflict. The aim of these activities was indeed to support civilians in developing their own protection capacity.
Following these training and awareness-raising sessions, the chiefs, women, and youth leaders took the initiative to engage with the commanders of the armed group operating in the area. As a result, representatives from the group willingly attended some training sessions on humanitarian norms, leading to positive changes within Ikpiro.
Mary, a 22-year-old mother of three, shared her experience of the training she received from Geneva Call and Passion for the Needy: “These activities have helped us understand the crucial role of civilians in ensuring our own protection, which is why we have begun speaking out.”
Thanks to the newfound knowledge of humanitarian norms and self-protection within the community, the chiefs were able to effectively request the demilitarization of the suburb and persuade the armed group to vacate Ikpiro, resulting in increased stability and security for the community.
The departure of the armed group from public buildings and grounds has yielded several positive impacts. The community has been able to reclaim these spaces and utilize them for their original purposes. Food security has improved as civilians can once again cultivate crops on the previously occupied land, and incidents of looting and violence, including sexual violence, against the civilian population, particularly women, have steadily decreased.
Ranjan Poudyal, Geneva Call’s Country Director in South Sudan, commended the achievement in Ikpiro and emphasized the significant role that engaging with communities plays in influencing the behavior of armed groups and in advocating for their own protection. “Geneva Call remains committed to ensuring that armed groups are aware of and comply with their humanitarian obligation. It very often requires engaging both armed groups and communities in the areas where they operate with the hope of witnessing similar positive outcomes elsewhere,” he said.