Malakal cycles for peace and the environment

28 Sep 2019

Malakal cycles for peace and the environment

Janet Adongo

Malakal’s finest cyclists have taken to the streets in the first of many “rides for peace” aimed at encouraging climate action in the world’s youngest country. Led by ultra-cyclist and peacekeeper Lieutenant Colonel Srinivas G, they rode from the United Nations protection site to the Mayor’s office in town.

Colonel Srinivas, who serves as a medical doctor in the UN mission’s hospital, is one of only three hundred and forty-six people in the world who have completed the grueling 5000-kilometer “Race Across America.”

“Comparatively, five kilometers is a walk in the park – even for the locals. However, it’s a start, and I’m hoping that with time we will be able to go further along the main supply route even up to two hundred kilometers,” he says

Yet, the five-kilometer ride was hardly a walk in the park given the heat and the dust storm occasioned by the odd vehicle whizzing past the cyclists.

Malakal is cut off from the capital and only accessible by unreliable air and riverine transport. As such, there are only a handful of vehicles and motorcycles here. Bicycles are therefore the most common means of movement, besides walking.

In town, they were joined by other peacekeepers, civilians and school children for a street festival that included marching bands, cultural dancing and poetry recitals.

Amidst all the festivities, copies of the revitalized peace agreement were distributed to shop owners, market women, fish mongers and tea girls. Malakal literally stood still.

“Our politicians, our parents, our government, we the young children are saying, give us peace and let us go to school.”

These were pleas from an emotional poem recited by the children under the Youth Mentorship Initiative. A song by students from Vision Academy also carried the same messaging – the children of South Sudan want peace.

To crown it all up, eight trees were planted in the town, including one by an eight-year-old girl, signifying the number of years since South Sudan gained independence.

And just as swiftly as they came in, Malakal’s finest cyclists were off. Their bright orange fly jackets displaying their intent to all. “Cycling for Peace.” “Cycling to Protect the Environment.”