Stimson (2014). Perceptions of Insecurity among IDPs in Juba, South Sudan
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This brief synthesizes voices of internally displaced persons seeking protection at United Nations peacekeeping operation bases in Juba, South Sudan. In early August 2014, the Stimson Center conducted seven focus groups with people living in two protection of civilians (POC) sites inside UN bases in Juba. The purpose of these focus groups was to understand better how people living in these sites perceived their security. A summary of the findings is presented in this report.
The analysis is a product of Engaging Community Voices in Protection Strategies, a three-year initiative of Stimson’s Civilians in Conflict project. The initiative seeks to protect civilians under threat by ensuring that conflict-affected communities are safely and effectively engaged in external protection strategies.
The Stimson Center is grateful to the focus group participants who volunteered their time to talk about
extremely difficult subjects, as well as to the humanitarian agencies that facilitated the focus groups in
the midst of this crisis. After a political dispute broke out on December 15, 2013, in South Sudan between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President, Riek Machar, the conflict took on an ethnic dimension and spread to include targeted violence against civilians on the basis of their tribal affiliation. Kiir’s supporters largely belong to the Dinka tribe while Machar’s supporters are mostly of the Nuer tribe. Parties on both sides of this conflict have committed abuses including killing, rape and the destruction
of civilian property on a devastating scale, and both sides have targeted civilians in places of refuge
such as churches and hospitals. With no other way to protect themselves from this violence, people began to flee to UN peacekeeping operation bases. More than 96,800 people are currently living on these bases in POC sites, guarded by peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).2
In the capital city of Juba, approximately 8,700 people are sheltering inside a UN base called Tong Ping and around 23,800 are in POC sites inside or adjacent to the UN base called UN House.3 Because Juba is controlled by Kiir’s government forces, the people living in the Juba POC sites are almost entirely members of the Nuer tribe who fear violence perpetrated by the government or by Dinka civilians. In
areas of the country controlled by Machar’s opposition forces, the reverse is true: inhabitants of those POC sites are mostly Dinka and fear violence perpetrated by Machar’s forces or Nuer civilians.
The people who participated in this focus group study expressed a great deal of fear regarding their
security. Several of them described horrific ordeals they had undergone to reach the POC sites, and
many conveyed a deep fear of threats outside the sites – either the threat of external attacks on the sites,
or threats they might face if they tried to leave the sites. The perceptions of these internally displaced
persons (IDPs) suggest that it will likely be a long and difficult process to change security conditions in
the country to the extent that they feel they can return home safely.