Malakal Celebrates ‘BelednaAwel’ Peace Campaign

Children, women and men gathered around a field in the United Nations Protection of Civilian’s (PoC) site in Malakal as music blared to their ears.

Malakal Celebrates ‘BelednaAwel’ Peace Campaign
Photo|Jale Richard

By Jale Richard

MALAKAL, 24 September 2018 [Gurtong]-
Some who had come earlier to the field secured seats while those who could not get seats stood in order for them to grasp what ensued in the middle of the field.

The choice of the music played could tell that it was meant for a special occasion for they had one thing in common, embracing peace.

Donning white T-shirts with a painting of a right hand and the word #BelednaAwel tagged beneath, a group of youth entered the field like a national football team would at the start of a game.

They shortly stood around a line drawn on the ground forming the South Sudan map.
A moment of silence ensued to honor the people who had died in the five-year South Sudan conflict. The youth then held and raised their hands up and shouted in unison “BelednaAwel”.

That moment marked the launch of the local Arabic phrase #BelednaAwel campaign literally translated as ‘South Sudan first.’

Similar celebrations were also held in Juba, Bor, and Rhino Camp- a refugee camp in northern Uganda where many South Sudanese refugees are living. The celebrations were supported by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

The South Sudan first campaign was launched to celebrate the International Day of Peace 2018. Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The United Nations General Assembly declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The global 2018 theme is “The Right to Peace - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70” The theme celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Throughout the event, speeches were followed intermittently with music performances by the Hope band- a music group performing peace songs to the inhabitants of Malakal PoC.
Traditional dances by Murmat group, Nyikang Wad Okuar group, and Mal group blended the celebrations with more color.

A drama group performed a peace play which depicted how women and men were struggling to survive in the PoC. In the play, women complained of their husbands who had become jobless in the PoC hence unable to provide for their families. Frustrated, the men resorted to drinking alcohol. Then the radio announced that peace agreement was signed which the men didn’t believe when they heard it from the women. They had to confirm it from the radio.

“We are going back to Malalak town, we are Malakal town,” they yelled in contentment.
Charles Onak Judo, the Executive Director of Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA) that organized the event said the South Sudan First campaign was meant to continue throughout the year to disseminate messages of peace to the people. UNYDA is a network organization that enables young women and men play a more active role in development of South Sudan.

He said celebrating the International Day of Peace meant a lot for the people of South Sudan given the years they had endured in conflict.

“This day is for peace for all of us in South Sudan. We are celebrating the day to honor and recognize those who have worked hard to end the conflict and promote peace in South Sudan and in the world,” said Charles. “We need to tell you thank you and well done for the job you have done for peace,” he added.

He added that South Sudanese should strengthen the ideal peace, reminding the participants that there was need to celebrate the recently signed peace agreement which gives hope for actual peace for the citizens.

“Every individual has the right to peace, and every individual has a role for peace,” he said. We are talking about the real peace,” Charles added.

The UNYDA director acknowledged that for South Sudan to achieve real peace, the Revitalized Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed in Addis Ababa needed to be implemented.

“We need to embrace this peace in our hearts. Recognizing that the grassroots people need to understand the peace agreement, Charles said “as a civil society organization, we have a bigger role. We need to translate the Agreement in to different languages and disseminate it to the people in order for them to understand what the agreement means.

“South Sudan deserves peace, South Sudan deserves sustainable and durable peace,” the UNYDA Director said. “This real peace should build confidence for building the country by South Sudanese,” he added.

Charles said the youth should denounce the violence in the country, and that the peace Agreement should be the basis for building a comprehensive peace in South Sudan.

“South Sudan is bigger than all of us. South Sudan is bigger than any politician, South Sudan is bigger than any ethnic group that is why we have to forget our interests and embrace the peace in front of us,” he emphasized. “We need unity in diversity, we need cultural diversity, and we have to love each other because we are in South Sudan.”

According to Charles, South Sudan will remain even after the current generation has gone. “We are requesting all citizens that we have to respect South Sudan. We have to forget our interests and wait for the ideal peace,” he added.

The UNYDA Director said for real peace to be witnessed on the ground there is need for commitment from everybody to implement the revitalized peace Agreement.

“We have to forgive each other and we have to forget the past. South Sudan will remain for the development of the citizens,” he said before adding, “a nation develops because of the people. If the people are developed, it means that country is also developed.”

Mr Chan Simon who represents the Office of Peace and Security Council at Malakal PoC said it is good to celebrate the International Day of Peace in the PoC. He said all the people came out to celebrate because they know peace has come and they are waiting for conditions to improve so that they can return back to their homes in Malakal town.

“We are celebrating today in the POCs and all over South Sudan, are those in the PoCs against peace?” he asked. “No!” he responded.

Mr Chan said those in the PoCS were willing to return to their homes provided the situation on the ground changes.

“Sometime people want to force us to go back to our homes but with the implementation of the peace agreement, everybody will go back to their homes without being told to do so,” he argued.

Mr Jago Judo, a representative from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) camp management said peace partners together with UNYDA were working for peace in Malakal.

He urged the donor community to continue supporting the peace building processes for the people of South Sudan.

Mr Yuod said the #BelednaAwel campaign should not only be in the playground, but all the youth should disseminate the peace messages to their communities in the PoC.

“Todays the message is peace for everybody, take the peace and fulfill it,” Mr Yuod added.
Josephina James, the Women Leader at the PoC stated that its not by choice that they are living in the PoCs but because of the conflict that forced them to leave their homes.

“The war affected many people especially women and children. We are suffering because we are dying for real peace to come so that everyone will go back to their homes,” Ms Josephina said.

“Now we are not in our homes, our children are the most affected by this conflict.  We are looking for the real peace to come so that we can go back home,” she added.

The Malakal PoC Youth Union Leader, Thomas Dak thanked UNYDA for organizing the peace day celebration.

He urged the people living in the PoC to take the first steps towards peace and reconciliation “so that our steps can reach up to a million.” “Forgiveness is hard but we can do it,” he said.
Mr Dak stated that youth in the country have been used as tools for fighting the war which he said should end.

“The reality is peace has come. Let us embrace it so that we can experience peace on the ground,” said Mr Dak. We need to remind ourselves that peace is important for us and for developmental activities. Now let us live in peace,” he urged the people.

According to Mr Dak, the symbol of #BelednaAwel campaign reminded people of the 2011 South Sudan referendum that led to the secession of South Sudan from Sudan.

“We used the same symbol of the hand to campaign for our separation. It is the same symbol of hand we are using for this campaign to put our country first,” he said.

Chagei Gatjiek Lualdit, a youth at the Malakal PoC who came to attend the celebration said the day was special since it brought together many people living in the PoC.

“We are here today celebrating this day, it is a very important and special day,” Mr Gatjiek said.  “We are all excited with UNYDA for organizing this celebration because it is the youth who are the very victims of the conflict.”

The Malakal youth stated that he believes it was time to rebuild the country by prioritizing it over everyone’s interests.

“We have to put our South Sudan first before our own interests. In everything I do, I have to know that South Sudan must be first and we put our interests behind then we will continue building our country,” he said.

Mr. Gatjiek said the youth all over the country must start believing that “they belong to South Sudan, they are the future of South Sudan, they are the ones to build South Sudan, and they are the future leaders of South Sudan.”

“They have to embrace this day, they have to consider their country first, starting from me to every youth in the country,” Gatjiek added.

When actual peace is realized in the country, Gatjiek said he hopes to get out of the PoCs and have freedom to move anywhere across the country.

“Freedom of movement is very important for me as a young man. I have nothing to do here in Malakal. I can go to either Juba or anywhere in South Sudan to get a job, or if I qualify to teach I have to teach the children because they are the future of the country,” he hoped.

For Gatjiek, peace means his own safety first, safety for the country, and the safety of the environment. “Everything in South Sudan must be safe and in peace,” he demanded.

He urged fellow youth to embrace peace and always consider first the interest of the country over their interests.

Nyariek Pidon Tut another youth who attended the BelednaAwel launch thanked UNYDA for organizing the event and for uniting people in Malakal.

“Thank you for uniting people in the PoC, it is a big day and my message to my fellow people in South Sudan is that South Sudan is for all,” Ms Nyariek said. “The 64 tribes are making South Sudan look so beautiful.

She added that the youth in Malakal demand an end to the conflict before appealing to South Sudanese leaders to implement the signed peace Agreement.

“The people are waiting for them to implement the peace agreement. Here in Malakal PoC we are suffering a lot. We are waiting for peace. We are not happy. Here is like a prison and we want to get out of here to start a new life,” Ms Nyariek said.

Posted in: Featured Stories
RSS comment feed
There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.
Add Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)


Enter the code shown above in the box below
Designed and built by Brand X