To mark India’s 72nd birthday, peacekeepers run for peace in South Sudan
An early morning run was an exciting experience for some 300 peacekeepers this past Sunday, as they ran to convey a message of peace for South Sudan.
Organized by Indian peacekeepers, the eight-kilometre ‘run for peace’ brought together men and women from both the civilian and military components of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), plus employees of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
“Through this run for peace, we aim to get peace into this country,” said Colonel Praveen Govindan, who, together with fellow Indian peacekeepers serving in South Sudan, had organized the run as a part of India’s 72nd independence celebration events.
“South Sudan has got independence, but peace is still elusive,” said the Indian deputy chief of staff, following the run. “We want peace to be back here,” he said, echoing what was on the minds of other runners of the day.
“When you see people promoting peace, that means human rights violations will decrease,” said Veronicah Wakarima, a human rights officer from Plan International. “The rights of children, women, as well men will be respected if there is peace,” said Veronicah, who confessed that running was an unusual practice for her, but she had vowed to give it a shot for the sake of peace in South Sudan.
The race winner, Rwandan Private Nsengiyumva Innocent, was all smiles as he received his golden shield and medal. “To promote peace, you have to be fit, to be able to protect the people you are working to protect,” he said, referring to the amount of practice he had put in as he prepared for the run.
A golden shield plus 32 silver and bronze medals were awarded to winners in three age groups, at a brief ceremony that also saw runners sampling healthy snacks provided by Indian peacekeepers at the UNMISS-Tongping base.
“I love running, and especially to run in support of the peace that everyone is hoping for now in South Sudan,” said Caroline Hammergren a staff member from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
“Sports is a unifying factor in a country,” said Amule Seme, a South Sudanese National staff member who emerged as one of the winners. “It brings people together,” he said, referring to the various communities that need to come together in his country, and promote peaceful coexistence.
Flagged off by the Indian Ambassador to South Sudan, S.D. Moorthy, the race united participants from divergent global backgrounds to jointly advocate for peace in the young world’s youngest nation.
“With the ongoing peace talks and the latest developments, South Sudan will also see peace,” said the lead organizer, Col. Praveen, stressing the UN messages of peaceful resolution of conflict, while citing the long, non-violent struggle that ushered in India’s independence in 1947.
In conclusion, he said everyone who had participated in the race was considered a ‘peace winner’.