Calls for peace and unity resonate as communities in Bentiu gather to celebrate International Day of Peace
“We must stop revenge killings and cattle raiding,” said Dak Malual, a youth representative, emphatically, as he addressed community members gathered at the Bentiu Independence Stadium to mark International Day of Peace.
“We should, instead, collaborate with our government to fight crime,” added Dak. “Our development depends on peace. We cannot fold our arms and continue to wait for humanitarian assistance. We have to be self-sufficient so instead of fighting, let’s use our energies to cultivate our lands and shape a prosperous future for our people.”
The Peace Day celebrations, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was also a good opportunity to sensitize community members on COVID-19 prevention measures, since the virus continues to pose a persistent threat.
For Mary Nyekuon Dio, a women’s representative, vaccines are key in helping populations across the world’s youngest nation combat Coronavirus. “If we are vaccinated, we will feel much safer as we go about our regular days,” she states.
Another key topic: fulfilling the 35 per cent representation of women in governance and leadership roles, as stipulated in the Revitalized Peace Agreement of 2018.
“Women are natural peace makers and negotiators. We constitute 50 per cent of society and it is imperative that we are fully empowered to participate in decision-making and in conflict resolution,” added Mary.
Conflict, discrimination against women and young girls as well as education for all were some other issues that youth representatives spoke about with passion and eloquence.
For their part, state government officials attending the event called for speedy disarmament.
“Guns and other weapons are in the hands of those who should not be carrying them,” said James Madut, state Minister for Peacebuilding. “We need voluntary disarmament so that all communities can be safe, secure and live peaceful lives.”
Faith-based choirs, traditional dance groups, drama clubs and local musicians all maximized their efforts to send messages of peace and oneness.
Be it songs, dances, theatrical performances or poetry, the message from community members here was clear—a durable peace is overdue for the people of Unity state.