Music and lyrics: An UNMISS peace concert in Raja County creates hope for unity and reconciliation

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The UNMISS in-house band —the Flamingoes— held a peace concert in Raja county, Western Bahr El Ghazal bringing excitement, joy, and hope to the town. Photo by Alahayi Nemaya /UNMISS

17 May 2023

Music and lyrics: An UNMISS peace concert in Raja County creates hope for unity and reconciliation

Alahayi Nemaya

WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – The world’s newest nation, South Sudan, is currently on the cusp of becoming a true democracy, by beginning to draft its permanent constitution in preparation for its first-ever elections scheduled to take place in 2024.

To galvanize civic and voter education related to ongoing peace processes, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is taking a musical route, thanks to its in-house band—the Flamingoes.

A recent peace concert in Raja county, Western Bahr El Ghazal, these local musicians contracted by the UN Peacekeeping mission brought hope, joy, and, vitally, life back to communities who have been severely impacted by conflict.

The choice of location was significant for residents, who recalled a more peaceful past when music would bind different communities together.

“Today’s concert reminded me of my time as a young man, when we would have a monthly gathering around traditional dances in Raja town,” recalled Joseph Benjamin, a nearly 90-year-old resident, as the band performed a locally popular song.

“Music used to make us strong, uniting us in peace. Today’s event revived those beautiful memories,” he added reflectively.

Joseph’s bittersweet nostalgia was echoed by Mary Martin, a single mother who walked five kilometres to watch the Flamingoes perform in Raja.

“I am delighted hearing the guitars, drums and singing. The messages contained in the lyrics brought tears to my eyes. They spoke to everything we so desperately need --reconciliation, unity, and everlasting peace. We must broker peace among ourselves and our neighbours,” she pointed out.

High-level officials from the county office and state security organs attended the concert and shared these colorful moments with communities.

“Music is one of the best tools to widely disseminate peace messages to the people of Raja and, indeed, to all South Sudanese. People are united today because of music and these messages of amity resonate with everybody, regardless of their age,” stated Addison Arkangelo, County Commissioner of Raja.

Such largescale community engagement is key for UNMISS in its role as South Sudan’s partner for peace.