In South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, youth constitute over 70 per cent of the population. As the country approaches its first-ever national elections it is imperative that their voices be fully heard and included in peace processes.
Thanks to a two-day peacebuilding workshop hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), through its Civil Affairs Division in Akobo, Jonglei state, youth leaders across this conflict-prone county have pledged to reconcile and unite.
The commitment was made by a group of youth leaders, mainly allied to the ‘white army,’ from the payams [administrative divisions] of Dengjock, Nyandit and Gakdong.
This breakthrough came during informative and engaging discussions at the forum wherein participants agreed that peaceful coexistence is essential for peace and development.
They also expressed their desire to reconcile with the Murle community, in line with the Pieri Peace Agreement signed in 2021.
Vitally, they vowed to refrain from revenge killings and continue efforts to identify, recover and return abducted women and children.
“Any young person who bears arms must be continuously engaged in peace dialogues facilitated by UNMISS or the government,” said one of the participants, Wol Hoth Wol, who added that he believed that conflict mitigation training is the ideal approach to help communities understand the dangers of cattle rustling.
Another youth leader and participant, Kong Reth Ret, stressed that the success of this workshop will not be assessed by the number of participants, but by a tangible reduction in cattle raids and revenge attacks.
“We have laid down our arms. The town must be gun free and movement of the people from one payam to another should be safeguarded by the government, so that nobody falls prey to ambushes,” stated Mr. Ret.
“We must not live in fear of our neighbours but rather embrace our differences. We are all South Sudanese and we share a common identity,” he added, requesting for more inter-community conversations.
Another request: Help in building skills among young people so that they do not have to resort to picking up arms to make a living.
“We became so embroiled in attacks and counter attacks that we were not farming, trading or inter-marrying. But if we embrace peace and have livelihood skills, we will improve our economic situation. This is the message I am going to take back to others in my payam,” stated Mayiel Reth, another participant.
For his part, Chuol Chot, another participant urged the government to strengthen laws to eliminate violence against women and hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account.
“It is unfortunate that if a man rapes a 12-year-old girl he is forced to pay in cows and marry her instead of being sent to jail. The local government and customary laws must be strengthened to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice,” he stated.
An innovative suggestion from Mr. Chot—for the governments of Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) to work together by reducing conflict through buffer zones and establishing a civilian peace force.
Michael Hoth, Deputy Director of Akobo county, called on the international community to support South Sudan, especially when it comes to conflict prevention.
“We hope that increased engagement from our international friends will lead to a reduction of mass mobilizations and violence. Our people have suffered enough. We need to take collective action to build a better world for our children,” he stated eloquently.
This two-day training is part of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s ongoing efforts to engage South Sudanese youth in productive pursuits, promote rule of law, accountability, and build trust in the justice system.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).