In South Sudan, as across the world, hate speech and mis- and disinformation often lie at the root of spreading violence.
As the nation races against time to complete its long-delayed democratic transition by holding its first-ever national elections at the end of 2024, necessary peace benchmarks remain incomplete while conflict continues to soar.
It is, therefore, vital that communities fully participate in the country’s civic life—includig the drafting of a permanent constitution—and have full access to verified information.
As part of its mandate to support the peace process, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), therefore, held a day-long workshop in Upper Nile’s capital, Malakal, to discuss judicious use of social media, take appropriate actions to combat hate speech and embrace nonviolent means to seek justice and uphold human rights.
Hosted jointly by the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Human Rights Division and the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) in Upper Nile, some 50 people participated in the event held on the margins of International Day of Peace.
The focus: To raise awareness around the collective responsibility on fighting misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech to ensure sustainable peace and development.
Given the sudden outbreak of violence in the UN Protection Site here in May and June this year, which led to loss of lives and injuries to many, this initiative was welcomed by communities.
“Today we learned about the damaging effects incorrect and potentially inflammatory information has on society in South Sudan. In fact, disinformation had a major role to play in the recent crises in our state. Intercommunal conflicts and political rivalry have impeded our country’s journey from war to peace; and we all have a role to play in ensuring we resolve our differences peacefully. We shall share the knowledge we received with our communities, specially to the grassroots,” said Mathos Awan Aguer, a civil society activist attending the event.
The training included special sessions on detecting and combatting harmful or violent communications especially related to the upcoming electoral process.
“As civil rights defenders, we are constantly hosting seminars to raise awareness on eradicating all forms of offensive public messaging and working to build trust among community members,” revealed Asha Al Jak, another activist and member of the law society.
“Now more than ever, we need to redouble our efforts so that every citizen can exercise their democratic right to vote without fear of reprisal when the time comes,” she added.
For his part, Solana Jeremiah Diu, Coordinator of the JPC, highlighted the importance cooperation between state and UNMISS.
“This is a critical time for South Sudan. With the expertise we exchanged today, we shall become peace disseminators in our communities. We hope UNMISS will continue to partner with us,” stated Mr. Diu.
For his part, Bishop Stephen Nyodho Ador from the Catholic Church Diocese of Malakal, gave a message of hope, reconciliation, and unity.
As the interactive and informative event came to a close, Alfred Orono Orono, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state urged all in attendance to bring positive change to their respective communities.
“As we mark the International Day of Peace, we must all accept our social responsibilities and contribute together to a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan,” he said in conclusion.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).