25 May 2020


Malakal Youth: “We Play To Unite”

When the five year old conflict started in December 2013, many youth were divided between the different political sides. Some became agents of division.

 Malakal Youth: “We Play To Unite”

By Jale Richard

JUBA, January 12, 2019 [Gurtong]- But with recent developments in the political spectrum, and efforts by civil society organizations to engage youth in peace building, many youth have turned to promoting peace.

Onen Charles Kur, a footballer in Malakal UN Protection of Civilians site (POC) played in the 2018 Sports for Peace Tournament organized by a National organization, Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA) to promote peace and unity amongst the different communities in Malakal POC. It was his second tournament since it was initiated in the POC.
Mr. Onen said playing together with fellow youth from other tribes meant promoting peace and unity in the community.

“I am very happy to play in this tournament. Every year we play for peace and this year it is much better because we know peace is coming,” said Onen.

He added, “Playing together is what will unite us because Shiluk and Nuer and the other tribes play together in the games,” urging South Sudanese to make and to live together.

UNYDA's Sports for Peace Tournament in Malakal PoC started on the 13 December 2018 and ended on December 22, 2018. The theme for Sports for Peace is "BelednaAwel" (South Sudan First). It is supported by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) to help youth unlearn violence.

The tournament was organized to promote peace in the Upper Nile region since the December 2013 outbreak of violence in South Sudan which quickly took ethnic dimension and spread out to the entire region, as a result, thousands of south Sudanese were displaced into UN Camps and neighboring countries.

The four sectors of Malakal POC, sector 1, 2, 3 and 4 each formed a boys’ football team, and volleyball teams for boys and girls to compete in the tournament. They played each other and the team with most wins was crowned champion for the Sports For Peace Tournament.
The winner of the tournament was awarded a trophy while the best players were awarded for their talent.

“Through the games, we want to tell all South Sudanese that “we are all one. Let us live together. You, I and our neighbors should live together,” Mr Onen said.

For Zachariah Gabriel from Team 2, playing in the tournament was special. “We come from different tribes to play in the same game and we still love ourselves because our country lacks peace,” he said.

“We hope with these games we can promote peace and unity among the people of South Sudan. We encourage all the people to start participating in sports activities to build peace,” Mr Zachariah added.

Suzan James, who played for the girls Volleyball Team 2, said she played to encourage idle girls in the POC to start taking sports seriously since it provides opportunities to know many people and for keeping the body fit.

“It is good for all communities to unite because when different tribes play together, they build friendship which promotes peace and unity,” Suzan said.

Orsella Joseph, from Team 4 urged parents to allow their children to interact with children of other tribes so that they can build peace amongst themselves.

She called on the government to implement the peace agreement so as to allow the displaced people get out from the POC to start building their lives.

For Tina Ramadan, the tournament was a uniting factor for those in Malakal POC. She hoped that in the coming year’s UNYDA could organize the tournament for the POC residents and those living in Malakal town.

Tina said she played in the tournament to “set her mind free” from the things she was thinking about due to idleness.

She noted that “Through the games, no one will say they belong to certain tribes because we play for the same team.

The Chairperson of the POC Women Committee, Ms Rachael Mayik Ayang said UNYDA’s intervention in Malakal POC helped the community overcome many challenges they had encountered due to the conflict.

She said the sports tournament helped the youth to forget about the challenges they faced in the POC camps.

“When they play together, we know each other and we become friends,” she said before adding that in sports, people are trained some morals and discipline that promote respect for one another.

“This coming together to me I think helps in peaceful co-existence. We become friends and learn from others how to behave not like when everyone is isolated in their homes,” Ms Rachael added.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Peace and Security Committee in the POC, Orach Matjo said through sports, the youth have been driven away from negative thoughts.

“We wish UNYDA to continue doing its activities because when young stars see themselves involved in such activities, they will feel happy,” he said. “The competition is what brings development. We cannot develop if we don’t work together,” he added.

Mr. Samuel Kur Agany, the Secretary for Sports and Culture in Malakal POC revealed that before UNYDA started the Sports For Peace Tournament, many youth were engaged in drinking alcohol but with the games, they were engaged in playing rather than drinking.

“The tournament creates relationship among the youth and the audience. It will also show the talented players so that they can be identified and promoted,” he said.

Charles Onak Judo, the Executive Director of UNYDA, said most of the youth UNYDA targeted through the sports for peace tournament in Malakal POC had been manipulated and mobilized by various warring factions to advance their cause and inflict destruction on communities across the State.

“The Impacts of the conflict had broken ties between communities and youth and   limited the exposure of youth to alternative ways of dealing with division of such kind,” he said.

Through the project, UNYDA and its supporter Norwegian Peoples Aid aim to help youth to unlearnt violence and embrace spirit of dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation among the communities that have been divided by the political war and conflict.

Mr. Onak said UNYDA mobilizes youth from different ethnic groups into working groups and help them to think together to achieve a common goal such as peace through the sporting activities and through cultural events.

Meanwhile Michael Gorjin Kuol, NPA’s Project Coordinator said the goal of their partnership with UNYDA is to help for conflict-affected youth to unlearn violence and promote peace in South Sudan.

“This is largely focusing on changing attitudes of key youth who will then act as mobilizers to promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution approaches to the wider public and to their peers. Thus, when enough attitudes change, there will be a mass attitude change with less fear and hate targeting those seen as the ‘other’ and an increase in peace and tolerance communication that will lead to a shift in social norms. If the attitudes of the youth change in a country where the youth are the majority - then eventually this will lead change at the institutional level,” he explained.

Mr Gorjin said Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) supports UNYDA in order  to engage and mobilize key youth through safe spaces and activities that interest youth and provide them opportunities to interact with youth from different communities and strengthen their relationships.

“If youth are provided with positive alternatives to violence they will gain new perspectives, skills and knowledge that will change their attitudes on issues on tribalism, conflict and violence and then change their behavior to promote peace and unity amongst youth,” he argued.

He said youth continue to be at the centre of conflict in South Sudan and can be powerful agents in both creating conflict and peace.

“With over 72% of the country’s population being below 30 years of age, there is a large number of youth who are tired of violence and conflict and ready for alternatives to transform their lives and communities,” Mr Gorjin added.


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