“My Constitution, My Voice”: UNMISS engages Juba youth in peace and constitution making process

unmiss south sudan juba youth forum constitution making peace process inclusion rjmec

Youth attending an UNMISS forum on the peace and constitution making processes made sure to get their questions answered. Photos: Isaac Billy/UNMISS

5 Apr 2023

“My Constitution, My Voice”: UNMISS engages Juba youth in peace and constitution making process

Filip Andersson

CENTRAL EQUATORIA – It is an opportunity they can ill afford to miss: South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is drafting a permanent constitution, its political and juridical compass, and comprising 70 per cent of the population, South Sudanese youth must both understand the process and make sure their voices are heard.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is keen to help them with both, which is why its Community Outreach Unit and Political Affairs Division recently organized two events in Juba, both under the theme “My Constitution, My Voice”, targeting a wide spectrum of young women and men.

“It is important for youth to know what a constitution is, how it is being drafted and how they can get involved in the process, because young people often complain about not being listened to. This event gives us an opportunity to be heard, to speak out on behalf of themselves and their peers,” said Gamboripal Grace Bapia, a Youth Reporter for the UN Children’s Foundation, Unicef.

“When we can come together as one South Sudan, social interaction and political involvement increase while ills like tribalism, nepotism and corruption can be reduced,” she added.

The Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring & Verification Mechanism and representatives from the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission also updated the participants of the youth forum on the revitalized peace agreement, what has been accomplished so far and what the remaining stumbling blocks are.

“We know that the youth are a majority in South Sudan, the future owners and leaders of the country, but we are also aware that they are often left out of political processes, not least the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and the drafting of a constitution that will be theirs for years to come. UNMISS considers it a priority to contribute to rectify this unfortunate situation,” said Ndubsi Obiorah, a Senior Political Affairs officer serving with the peacekeeping mission.

Its Outreach Unit, as part of its mandate, creates platforms for relevant stakeholders, including the Ministry of Peacebuilding, to reach out to and educate them on the work of the peacekeeping mission, the peace process and on how to get themselves involved in crucial national developments.

“The whole idea is to engage them (the youth), to inform them about the permanent constitution making process, field their questions, clear their doubts and encourage them to have a say. We want them to become a part what is going on around them, to be part-owners of the direction their country decides to take,” said Reuben Inaju, Head of said Outreach Unit.

The young men and women in attendance know what is at stake in 2023 and 2024, when elections are scheduled to be held.

“We need to stay calm and maintain peace. Our country has undergone two civil wars in the past ten years, and now we are at a watershed moment. It is a make-or-break situation where we need to decide what South Sudan will look like next: more conflict or choosing a different path to resolve our differences. As young people, we have a pivotal role to play,” said Nelson Kwaje, founder of Scenius Hub, a vibrant youth space that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, art and more.

For the peacekeeping mission, these two youth forums mark just the beginning and the starting point for interacting even more and better with South Sudanese youth. A series of community engagements with this large and essential part of the population is scheduled and will aim at promoting their inclusion in everything that concerns them as young citizens.