South Korean peacekeepers rehabilitate football field to galvanize trust building
JONGLEI – Jonglei’s biggest football ground—Bor Freedom Square—has received a major facelift, thanks to engineers from the Republic of Korea serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Given rising rates of youth unemployment which, in turn, has led to increased criminal activity among young people, reveal state authorities, this intervention by the UN Peacekeeping mission is timely.
“Idleness among young people is one of the key drivers of criminality; this can be addressed if youth are gainfully occupied,” said Mabil Makuach Dau, state Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports.
“Previously, we couldn’t use this football pitch during the rainy season, but now these grounds are conducive for young people to meet and build team spirit through sport. This, hopefully, will help them spend their time productively,” added Minister Dau.
The power of sport to foster social cohesion and promote psycho-social development is universally acknowledged. In South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, as intercommunal conflict continues to mar the political and social landscape, organized sport can be a healing tool.
“When fans are cheering the football game, you cannot identify their ethnic affiliation. They are united by the joy of the game and this is the sort of national identity we must forge in the months ahead as our country gears up to complete its democratic transition. Sport has the power to gather us under a common umbrella and we appreciate UNMISS for their support,” stated John Samuel Manyuon, Acting Governor, Jonglei state.
“Our aim is for this newly rehabilitated football pitch goes beyond the games that will be played here; it is our wish that this ground helps heal the wounds of the past and bridges the gap between communities,” said Geetha Pious, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Bor.
Apart from levelling the ground with murram and repairing damages caused by heavy rain, peacekeepers handed over sports accessories, educational materials and conducted a free medical outreach where some 40 people received treatment for various ailments, including orthopedic consultations.
For South Korean peacekeepers, every such intervention is key to building a lasting peace here, especially as South Sudan, currently in a transitional period of its history, moves forward towards fully implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement, drafting its permanent constitution, and prepares for its first-ever elections in 2024.
“This is our way of supporting the people of South Sudan on their road to a permanent peace. It is our wish to see young people flourish and contribute to sustainable development across the country,” averred Colonel Yo Han Park, Commanding Officer of the South Korean engineers.