With the world’s youngest nation gearing to usher in its long delayed democratic transition through its first-ever national elections next year, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) continues to steer conversations which promote meaningful youth participation in democratic and constitutional governance.
One such example: An intra-university debate where three teams of eloquent students drawn from different disciplines attending the Dr John Garang Memorial University of Science Technology in Bor, argued motions on gender representation in the government; constitutional governance and the role of the UN Peacekeeping mission.
Anchored around three questions—should gender representation in the government be mandatory or voluntary; is UNMISS impartial in protecting civilians; and should South Sudan be a federal government—the forum aimed to provide a safe space to address contentious issues as well as develop critical thinking and tolerance for opposing views.
The 12 participants said they found the session timely and empowering.
“The topics were thought-provoking,” said Ruth Kuei Makuei, member of one debate team.
“The initiative does not only seek to entrench youth participation in governance but prepares us to be better citizens who can engage with issues of national importance,” she added.
For Rhoda Ayen, member of the opposing team, arguing such stimulating motions was inspiring.
“I aspire to be a diplomat and I am confident that sessions such as the one we participated in today go a long way in sharpening my public speaking and engagement skills,” she said.
Agol Samuel Panchol, President of the University’s student guild and part of the winning team took Rhoda’s endorsement a step further.
“I’m incredibly glad UNMISS is engaging young people to share our views on critical issues our country is facing at the moment in such an interesting, solutions-focused way. It tells me that the UN Peacekeeping mission is truly here to help usher in lasting peace and development. As young people, we want our voices to be included in identifying gaps and proposing ways forward in the manner in which we are governed by our leaders,” he averred passionately.
The winning team will take part in the national inter-university debate in Juba.
State authorities were appreciative of UNMISS and called for similar youth-focused events.
“We hope UNMISS will trickle down similar debates at the high school level so that more young people across Jonglei can benefit from respectful yet spirited exchanges on issues that impact all of us,” concluded Gabriel Malual Kon, Jonglei State Minister for Peacebuilding, who also served as a judge at the competition.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).