UNMISS organizes vibrant multi-ethnic cultural festival of peace in Aweil
NORTHERN BAHR EL GHAZAL- Thousands of revellers gathered for Aweil town’s cultural peace festivals, a two-day happening where exuberant singing and dancing kept visitors thoroughly entertained.
Organized by the Northern Bahr El Ghazal’s State Ministry of Culture with support from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the theme of the event was “Unity in diversity”.
The state’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports used the festive occasion to call for peace and unity among different ethnic groups living in the state, and between them and communities living in neighboring Warrap State and Abyei.
Recent intercommunal conflicts have raised concern that peace in the region may be threatened.
South Sudan is a culturally diverse country with more than 60 ethnic groups. Some 20 of these groups coexist in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State alone.
UNMISS is continuously working on finding ways to bring people of all these ethnicities together, not least by organizing peace-promoting outreach events and advocacy campaigns.
The peacekeeping mission is encouraging annual cultural peace festivals to be held in all of the country’s ten states, so that citizens can embrace and cherish their culturally rich heritage instead of allowing it to create divisions and conflicts.
“What we want is to bring about peace by promoting cultural unity, social cohesion, and upholding the values and traditions of the South Sudanese. Cultural festivals is one way the population can come together and be united,” said Alfred Zulu, Acting Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Aweil.
Those present at the event certainly showcased their cultures and embraced the beauty of it all.
Maria Angelo, a youth and women’s activist in the area, talked about her happiness and vision for the future.
“We will promote our culture, we will embrace it and we will maintain it and even modernize it in a beautiful way, like what we have seen here. It really gives us more dignity, and more respect, it makes us proud of ourselves as South Sudanese,” said Angelo.
This cultural event was the first of its kind in the state, with communities proudly exhibiting songs and dances, expressing the cohesion of their diversity. With ten ethnic groups participating, this was indeed a show of peace.
“Aweil is a city of peace. Such a cultural day will help in unity of conscience and tribes and reflect that people here live in peace as brothers. All the 64 tribes of South Sudan are one community. This reflects the beautiful picture of coexistence,” said Lucia James, a traditional dancer from the Shilluk tribe of Upper Nile State who has called Aweil her home for more than 16 years.
At the event, the Governor of Northern Bahr-El-Ghazal, Tong Akeen Ngor, urged those in attendance to promote peace and unity amongst the different ethnic communities in the state.
“This cultural event which brought together different ethnicities of South Sudan is to reflect to the world that we are a peaceful country. A country of love, a country that absorbs every human being regardless of their colour, ethnicity, or shape. You, the young generation, should start practicing your traditional dances, language and learn how to peacefully co-exist with people who don't live in our state, we should stop all forms of discrimination,” he said.
For the young and old, women and men, this day was indeed one to remember. It is now hoped that more similar events will continue to encourage and foster peaceful coexistence amongst everyone living in the region and beyond.