An afternoon of dancing and dialogue on peace in Juba
“Building Durable Peace Together” was the slogan of a lively and informative neighbourhood-wide advocacy initiative held this past Saturday at the Zain football field in the Gudele area of Juba.
The event, made possible by combined efforts of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the September 2018 peace deal, brought together a panel of community leaders and peace partners from the National Pre-Transition Committee (NPTC) to raise awareness and answer questions on the revitalised peace agreement, as well as to celebrate brotherhood with song and dance.
Over the course of the afternoon, some 2,000 residents came out to partake in the day’s event, despite the afternoon sun and haze.
“All of you here today represent a critical link in the revitalised peace agreement,” said R-JMEC Senior Governance Advisor Dr. Job Akuni. “The South Sudanese must claim ownership of the agreement, and to this end, we have committed to disseminating the agreement’s text through broadcasted and printed means across the country, in your local languages,” he continued.
Participants of all ages and sizes gathered around the field to listen to various speakers’ messages of empowerment and hope, some of them standing on lawn chairs to get a better view of the action.
“The peace agreement represents new life for the South Sudanese,” said woman civil society representative Mary Akech. “But it is not only in the hands of political parties to resolve the nation’s issues—it is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Dialogue is necessary to do this, and all of you should go home and tell others what you heard here today,” she continued.
Wedged between the various presentations were performances put on by colourfully-clad children and adults from local cultural groups, as well as by members of UNMISS’ Ethiopian military contingent. Youths made up a significant number of the captivated onlookers.
“Peace is important, so I came here to learn more,” said Rose Kiden, a native of Kejo-Keji who has transferred to Juba for her studies. “I am so happy about this program.”
Head of the UN peacekeeping mission David Shearer also addressed the crowd, commending the progress that has been achieved in the country thus far and pledging his support in the ongoing peace process.
“We’ve had peace across many of the places where there was fighting before, and we’ve seen many of the parties in Juba increasingly talking and negotiating with each other,” he said. “There is still a long way to go, we know that, but the main thing is that we are moving forward together towards building greater trust and confidence, and the UN will be here to support South Sudan as much as it can.”