A wide spectrum of youth living in Yei are exploring ways to end ethnic division and build unity in a forum to promote peace in the south-western region of South Sudan.
Organized under the theme “promoting peace, social cohesion and peaceful co-existence”, the forum has been organized by the Civil Affairs division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in collaboration with a local faith-based group, Augustine Family Organization.
“Some politicians want to divide you along tribal and ethnic fault-lines, and because the youth are not educated about the consequences of their actions, they always bear the brunt of the war for a cause very peculiar to them,” said Alfred Kenneth Duku, the Yei Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.
Arkolano Lado Tombe, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yei agrees.
“South Sudan will perish if the youth never wake up now and reject any manipulation by politicians in order to achieve their individual political interests,” he said.
Bishop Arkolano said that Yei has experienced the consequences of a broken relationship between the military and the civilians. This makes the local community afraid to approach military personnel during times of need.
“The army is very harsh on its people, and the people have become very scared of the army now, so they run away from them even during times that they are needed most.”
While it was okay to identify as Bari, Kakwa, Kuku, Dinka or a Nuer, the Bishop said the different tribes making up the country must project unity through its diversity rather than using ethnicity as a dividing factor.
The origins of peace should start in Yei so that other regions could then emulate the process, he said.
“Peace in our state means peace in other states, and war in one state is calling for war in other states, too,” said Bishop Arkolano. “Let us stay together as one people, so that we can sow seeds of peace in the other states, and when all the other states are in peace, then South Sudan will be peaceful and prosperous for today’s youth, including the youth yet to come.”
UNMISS staff member, Mawa Moses Alafi, urged the forumparticipants to strive for peace by embracing the culture of social cohesion and peaceful co-existence.
“The potential of the youth in bringing peace and harmony is paramount to the success of any political dialogue, because they make up the greatest percentage of the South Sudan population,” he said.
The forum, which brought together about 91 youth comprising the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, National Security, Prisons, Police, Boda Boda Associations, Women’s Association, religious groups, and Scouts identified some of the factors causing inter-ethnic polarity in Yei as impunity among elites, the historical background of conflict among superior tribes, tribal pride, as well as tribal and political hegemonies.