A home for coexistence: UNMISS hands over peace center in Yambio
21 September was special for local communities of Yambio, Western Equatoria. Not only was it International Day of Peace, but they received a much-needed boost to their own efforts to foster reconciliation and harmony among themselves from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in the form of a newly constructed peace center.
The cloudy Yambio sky filled with happy ululations as members of the Interfaith Council for Peace Initiative officially received the building from the UN Peacekeeping mission.
“We have suffered from war and conflict for a long time and our children continue to suffer,” said Alice Charles, a resident of Yambio attending the opening ceremony. “This center is a precious gift to us because we are committed to ensuring harmony and coexistence among ourselves. If we are to move forward and if our children are to lead better lives than us, then we must work together to build a durable peace.”
The peace center consists of a conference hall, office spaces and washrooms. It is expected to be a hub where women, men and young people can come together to further locally owned peace initiatives and resolve disputes before they can escalate into actual conflict.
“We call on peace actors to come and join us here to bring stability and security to our communities. We can do this by thinking of what we need to do to prevent violence and conflict. Prevention is always the best option when it comes to any possible outbreak of violence,” averred Elenama Jacob, Secretary-General, Interfaith Council for Peace Initiative.
For South Sudan to truly become a thriving democracy, peacebuilding must start from the grassroots according to Stella Abayomi, Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS. “We have collaborated closely with the Interfaith Council in in sensitizing people, facilitating reconciliation and conflict management workshops. We have seen firsthand how involving communities themselves engenders an ownership of and commitment to durable peace and our hope is that this center will amplify that feeling,” she stated.
Christopher Murenga, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Western Equatoria, says he believes that this center has the potential to become a guiding light for people across the state in their quest for a prosperous life. “This center should be a focal point from which messages of peace and reconciliation radiate across Western Equatoria and South Sudan; where people can congregate to discuss and to promote the invaluable currency that is durable peace,” he stated.
The peace center was constructed under the mission’s Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme that deals with urgent public infrastructure needs through small-scale, low-budget interventions that have a huge impact on the lives of communities. The local implementing partner for this particular project was Community for Peer Educators.
The state government of Western Equatoria has pledged to support this initiative.
“We are very happy that this is a house built for peace and coexistence and we will support it fully,” said John Bara Yona, State Minister of Cabinet Affairs.