Public opinion survey reveals widespread hope for lasting peace among South Sudanese

FRANCESCA MOLD

A new public opinion survey has found that 89 percent of South Sudanese believe that it is likely that there will be durable peace in the war-ravaged country by the end of this year.

The survey, commissioned by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, asked approximately 2300 people in towns and villages across the country about their views on the security situation, the prospects for peace and the performance of UNMISS in protecting civilians and building durable peace.

The survey paints a grim picture of the impact of the conflict on the people, revealing that 79% have experienced the death or displacement of family members as a result of the six-year armed conflict. In fact, 22 percent of those interviewed reported that at least 15 family members had been forced to flee their homes due to violence.

This will come as no surprise to the people of this country who have suffered through the past six years of war and the humanitarian crisis but it is a staggering number of people who have had a direct impact of someone in their family dying or being displaced,rdquo; said the Head of UNMISS and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, who released the survey results at a press conference in Juba.

Despite the immense human suffering, people across the country feel that the security situation is improving, particularly since the signing of a peace deal last September, and they remain optimistic that lasting peace can be achieved.

The survey found that 70 percent of those interviewed felt that the current security situation in South Sudan was either very or somewhat safe while 28 percent felt they were still not safe.

About 80 percent felt the security situation was either much better or better than a year ago and only five percent felt it was worse or much worse. Almost 90 percent believed lasting peace would be secured by the end of the year.

I think the survey offers some hope that we are on the right path, or more particularly, that people believe we should be on the right path and that peace can be achieved,rdquo; said David Shearer.

While it demonstrates the pain and the suffering that people have gone through, it also demonstrates the absolute desire and optimism for peace. It puts the focus very much on the leadership now to ensure that peace is delivered.rdquo;

The survey release follows a high-powered visit by the United Nations head of peace operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the African Union Peace and Security Commissioner, Smail Chergui, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Special Envoy, Ismail Wais.

The delegation was in South Sudan to promote the need for action to implement the peace agreement after a decision was made by the parties to extend the pre-transitional period by six months. They made a collective offer of practical support to the peace process, including technical assistance, expert advice, financial and political support.

David Shearer said UNMISS is supporting efforts to fully implement the agreement by facilitating dialogue and rapprochement in communities across the country, bringing political leaders together in workshops and forums to build trust and confidence and providing experts to assist the Independent Boundaries Commission as well as the process of reunifying the armed forces.

UNMISS also used the survey to measure its own performance in protecting civilians and building durable peace. Approximately 72% said they felt either much safer or a little bit safer because of the presence of UN peacekeepers. In terms of protecting civilians, 67% thought UNMISS was doing a better job now than a year ago and overall 83% thought UNMISS' performance was either very or somewhat positive.

These results are encouraging for us although we know that we can always do better,rdquo; said David Shearer. We will continue to measure our performance and make improvements where necessary in the year ahead.rdquo;

Source: United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)