JUBA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Wednesday said that thousands of displaced civilians have since returned to the war-torn country's border town of Yei since eruption of deadly violence in 2016.
The head of UNMISS David Shearer told journalists that the number of civilians returning to the once restive region have enormously increased due to expansive deployment of UNMISS troops in the area that was described in the past as a scene of possible genocide by UN investigators.
"I learned this morning that a thousand people had moved into the area just in the last day, that is very encouraging and clearly what people are doing is coming back slowly checking out the situation if it is safe enough to return. We hope that it (situation) will remain stable and they will be able to bring their families in," Shearer said in Juba.
According to the UN, some four million civilians have been displaced, two million live in internally displaced camps and 1.9 million are refugees in neighboring countries like Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.
"This has helped already to build the confidence of local people to return with many civilians coming back into Yei. It also enabled the opening up of the Juba-Yei road which was in very bad state of repair," he disclosed, adding that their field office in Yei has supported local leaders to kick start peace talks between the armed groups.
Shearer disclosed that the improved security situation in far to reach parts of the country have been supported by additional troops arriving with the Regional Protection Force (RPF).
He also revealed the official opening up of a permanent peacekeeping base in Yei on Thursday in the region located southwest of the capital near both Uganda and DR Congo.
"What I want to emphasize is that although the base will be opened on Thursday, it is not a base where we are sitting in the base, it's a base from which we will be able to project our forces and patrols out of the base and around the Yei region," he said.
Shearer added that the opening up of major roads in the conflict-stricken region will not only enable local motorists and traders to travel safely, but also to support the ability of local communities in coming together and talking to each other at grassroots level about peace.
He also disclosed that they will be setting up a light and more nimble peacekeeping footprint in the Akobo area in the northern Upper Nile region to support troops on rotational basis in the area.
Meanwhile, Shearer said they have dispatched a UNMISS team in Addis Ababa working alongside Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) and armed groups before resumption of peace talks on Feb.5 to help locate forces and ensure that the contact information for commanders and troops on the ground is collected.
"It is now important that we continue to take advantage of the momentum that is being created and on that note on Feb. 5, the next phase of the (peace) forum will begin which is likely to focus on governance and security arrangements," he said.
Shearer said further that there is a very broad consensus across the international community that the ongoing peace revitalization forum remains the best chance for peace in South Sudan and that they will be working to ensure that parties adhere to the agreement.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar's Nuer ethnic group.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.