Going for the Goal: South Sudanese University Students Aim to Score for Peace
Students from five universities in South Sudan march together on a field at the University of Juba. Marching side-by-side to the festive ring of bugle horns, these pupils are walking on soil that was a battleground just decades ago during South Sudan’s fight for independence from neighboring Sudan.
The once barren ground has now been transformed into a football pitch, where players gathered to kick-off an Inter-University Sports for Peace tournament, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Inter-University Peace League.
“[This tournament] is an opportunity to interact amongst ourselves – the generation that thinks to transform society,” says Kocdit Ngor Chiek, Guild President of Juba University’s Student Union.
While Kocdit and his colleagues are delighted by the field’s transformation over the years, they have grown tired and dismayed by South Sudan’s civil war which is quickly approaching its 6th year.
The players who have taken to the field – along with the hundreds of scholars cheering them on from the sideline – are eager for one thing: a lasting peace in South Sudan so they can realize their dreams and aspirations.
The recently-signed peace deal in Addis Ababa has provided them both a glimmer of hope and a sense of responsibility to embody what it means to be agents of peaceful change.
Kocdit is encouraging the footballers and fellow fans to make the most of the inter-university tournament and demonstrate that they can be the change they wish to see.
“At this joyous event, I call upon the players and fans to make it real as a symbol of unity by playing with each other as brothers in this tournament,” he said.
Players from Catholic University, Saint Mary’s College, Starford International University, University of Juba, and Upper Nile University stand side by side on the former battlefield. They are proud to carry their university’s banner yet humble enough to put their respect for each other first.
To cheer them on, a cultural group of Rwandan peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan performs a traditional dance that livens up the crowd. To further encourage the ambitious youngsters, the Director of the peacekeeping mission’s Human Rights Division provides some motivational words.
“South Sudan’s greatest asset is you, its vibrant youth,” said Eugene Nindorera. “That’s why it’s important for all of you to work together as a team towards a common goal – a goal on the football field, of course! But, also, the common goal of peace,” he added.
The mission’s support of the tournament is to inspire the future generation of South Sudanese to work together, regardless of winning or losing. UNMISS is also dedicated to working with partners and institutions, like the Inter-University Peace League, that are in alignment with the pursuit of a durable peace.
Simon Mijok Mijak, Dean of Students’ Affairs at the University of Juba, proves to be one of these partners when he announces his expectation of the learners.
“You will use whatever capacity you have as students, with the help of your professors and administrators, to achieve, realize and cement the peace we are living in now,” he said.
As the whistle blows for the first match of the tournament between University of Juba and Upper Nile University, the footballers and onlookers alike are determined to realize their ultimate goal: a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan for generations to come.