UNMISS hosts two-day youth forum on reconciliation and trauma healing in Malakal
With the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in 2018, South Sudan ushered in a new era of hope after the devastation wrought by civil wars.
Today, 10 years after it gained independence from its northern neighbor, Sudan, the world’s newest country stands on the cusp of becoming a true democracy as it begins drafting a permanent constitution and preparing for historic elections.
However, ongoing subnational violence, lack of development and the need for young people to be economically empowered has ensured that the scars of past wars remain unhealed.
Focusing on the innate power of youth to become agents of positive social transformation, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently collaborated with the state Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports in the Upper Nile region to host a two-day forum on reconciliation and trauma healing for 80 young people in Malakal.
The aim of the workshop was to bring youth together to deliberate on issues of the reconciliation, causes of trauma and the way forward in fostering peaceful co-existence among themselves.
“Many of us were children when conflict erupted in our country,” says Both Kueth, a youth representative. “We have heard the gunfire, lost family members and been displaced from our homes. There is a lot we have to forget and forgive but attending this workshop and having a safe space to discuss our issues, our traumas and our hopes with other young people is a very positive first step.”
For Rasmal Amum, a priority is forging relationships of trust and confidence among displaced youth residing in the UN Protection Site here and youth groups who belong to Malakal town.
"As young people, we are the backbone of this nation. We need to leave domestic strife behind and come together to work towards developing our country. Peace and development are two sides of the same coin,” said Rasmal eloquently.
Another important issue discussed at the forum was eschewing cultural practices such as early or forced marriages among underage girls.
“To build a strong South Sudan, girls and boys, women and men, must be educated equally and have the same opportunities,” averred Rasmal.
For Khamis Mayom, Director-General of the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport, the most important thing is for young people to become ambassadors of peace.
“All young people should build relationships with one another and not break them down,” said Mr Mayom, addressing the forum. “There is power in youth and there is power in togetherness. I hope that all of you will take this message to your communities, promote peace and justice for all.”
Jimmy Okumu, a Civil Affairs Officer with the UN Peacekeeping mission, said that he felt richly rewarded seeing the high turnout of young women at the workshop.
“Women constitute 50 per cent of any society and in South Sudan, as we all know, 70 per cent of the population is under 30 years of age. Seeing so many young women participate in this forum with spirit and determination to contribute to their communities is very gratifying for us,” he stated.
Upper Nile state is one of the most affected areas in South Sudan since the outbreak of the civil war in 2013, which tore apart the social fabric here. Peace and reconciliation, especially among the younger generation, is therefore key for establishing a durable peace here.