UNMISS-funded Terekeka conference brings hope for youth empowerment and political participation
CENTRAL EQUATORIA – “Empowering youth for sustainable peace” was the grand theme and objective when the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) invited some of these young women and men in Terekeka to a three-day conference on how to increase their participation in decision-making processes both locally and at the state and national levels.
Some, like Assunta Paul, Chairlady of the town’s Women’s Association, were more optimistic than others.
“Seeing them all discussing, dancing, embracing each other and sharing food brightens my heart. It makes me imagine a future full of hope, peace and development for us all,” she said.
Such happy days would certainly be welcome in a county often plagued by intercommunal conflict, frequently resulting in residents being displaced and sometimes killed.
“For years, Terekeka youth have been torn apart by and caught up in vicious cycles of violence, tribalism and negative stereotyping,” said Patience Anongor Antwi, a Civil Affairs Officer serving with the peacekeeping mission, adding that she hopes that establishing a functioning youth association will make their effective political participation and representation possible.
County Commissioner George Wani highlighted the funding role played by UNMISS in said association being able to conduct elections to select a new chairperson.
“An inspiring milestone as far as democratic processes go,” he commented, urging the youth in attendance to remain united regardless of their different ethnic affiliations.
Conflict resolution and peacebuilding expert Willian Ongoro from the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, co-sponsor of the conference, cautioned that conflicting ideas are part of coexistence and that the way feuding parties resolve their difference is what matters.
“Your spirit of togetherness demonstrated here today is a great start. With the right attitude and will in place, you can control your actions, influence decisions, and direct your energy towards the realization of a more peaceful and democratic country,” he said.
The conference brought together some 150 participants, most of whom were youth delegates from across Terekeka County.