PHILLIP MBUGO “We, as young South Sudanese, have the potential to actualize positive change and transform South Sudan into a model of peaceful coexistence.” This passionate statement was made by Ripai Justin, a youth leader in Yambio, Western Equatoria, at an UNMISS-organized forum.
His firm belief in a peaceful, prosperous South Sudan, was evidently shared by the 29 other people in the room, a cross-section of civil society activists and members of youth groups from around Yambio.
With delays in the peace process leading to frustration and disillusionment among many citizens in the world’s newest country, Ripai and his counterparts teamed up with the UN Peacekeeping Mission’s Civil Affairs Division and devoted an entire day to discussions that involved identifying root causes of spiraling violence in many parts of South Sudan. They also came up with innovative, inclusive, participatory solutions aimed at transcending inter-communal barriers. It is their hope that their voices will be heard by state and national authorities.
Listening to the outcomes of the workshop was Alfred Futoyo, Governor of Western Equatoria. When it was time for him to weigh in on the day’s deliberations, Governor Futoya acknowledged the power of young people to influence the future of the South Sudanese people. “I am struck by your energy and will to shape peace together for our country. Peace isn’t won by individuals; it needs collective efforts. This is how I know you need our support and the backing of national leaders for you to spread your messages far and wide,” he said. “Many young people lead extremely difficult lives in South Sudan, so for our part, I request all of you, as youth leaders to work towards tolerance and unity in your areas and find amicable resolutions to any disputes that may arise,” added the Governor.
Such a platform for frank, unfettered conversations was appreciated by all those who were a part of it. “I have learned, listened and spoken today. We are all tired of violence and fear. Now, more than ever, I am convinced that all young people, including me, should be ambassadors for sustainable peace in our families, our neighbourhoods and our communities,” said Justin Samson Kango, a participant.
For her part, Stella Abayomi, Acting Head of Field Office, UNMISS Western Equatoria thanked everyone for coming together and working collaboratively to ensure that the ongoing peace process receives a boost from South Sudanese citizens at every level. “Durable peace begins with dialogue. Every individual action, ranging from the grassroots level to the highest echelons of political office, provides much-needed momentum to the cause of a united, peaceful South Sudan. I am very grateful to everybody here for your productive inputs and inspired by your zeal,” said Ms. Abayomi in her remarks.
“As UNMISS, we are committed to providing you with the tools and training you need to make your dream of a resilient, developed, peaceful South Sudan a reality,” she added.
The mission plans to roll out similar interactive sessions with young people in Tombura, Maridi, Mvolo and Mundri.