Civilians march with soldiers as Malakal unites in first-ever International Day of Peace walk
The streets of Malakal town came to a standstill.
In scenes that have not been witnessed here before, revered Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers walked side by side with displaced persons living at the UN mission’s protection site. Many of those living there, hardly venture into town for fear of harassment by the soldiers. But times are changing.
“UNMISS has really improved the relationships between us and the government and the military,” said Teresa Mayom Mayiek, one of the day’s walkers. “We can now walk side by side with the Governor. Now we feel that everyone is working in harmony for South Sudan,” she added, encouraged to see all the different arms coming together to celebrate peace.
On and on, the marchers trudged rhythmically, as a long trail of humans waving South Sudan and United Nations paper flags wove its way past market stalls and electronics shops.
The brass band’s drums and trumpets would long fade off before the last enthusiastic walkers made it through – showing just how many people participated in the International Day of Peace walk here recently.
The “peace walk” was led by acting Governor John Odhong and UNMISS Sector Commander Brigadier General Albert Dawohoso, alongside senior government and uniformed officials, and representatives of all troop contributing countries based in Malakal.
There were also police officers from the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS). They were joined by their counterparts from the UN police, who have worked tirelessly to build the SSNPS’ capacity to handle return and reintegration of citizens in town.
The recent signing of the revitalized peace agreement has renewed the hopes and dreams of the South Sudanese. Teresa has her hopes in the agreement.
“We are very happy about the signing of the peace agreement. What we need now is to see the real effect of the signing here on the ground, so that we have the confidence to return to our homes,” says Teresa, unbothered by the sweat that ran down her brow.
In her enthusiasm, Teresa embodies the feelings and hopes of many, especially those living in Malakal – one of the towns that have been hardest hit by years of conflict.