UNMISS overcomes barriers to peace through cultural exchanges among communities in Lakes
RUMBEK – Building peace from the grassroots is the only way to sustained harmony and social cohesion.
In this regard, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) organized a two-day cultural exchange among formerly feuding communities from Rumbek East and Yirol West, Lakes state.
The UN Peacekeeping mission’s rationale is simple: Culture and heritage inculcate a sense of shared identity, thereby contributing to shaping peaceful societies and inculcating respect for diversity.
Led by the mission’s Civil Affairs Division in partnership with the state ministries of Peacebuilding and Culture, Youth and Sports respectively, the event brought together some 60 participants from both counties. These included traditional and community leaders, youth and women’s representatives as well as religious groups to discuss ways of fostering a durable peace.
“We have been here for two days, interacting with a diverse range of community members and leaders drawn from Yirol West County and the Greater Akot area of Rumbek East, who were in conflict in past times,” said William Koji Kirjok, the state Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports.
“It is a joy to see them together, conversing, convening, connecting and even eating and shopping together in the local market here,” he added. “Our mission, as the government is to bring people together and I think we have been very successful.”
Furthermore, speaking to participants, Minister Kirjok urged young people to voluntarily and peacefully disarm themselves as well as highlighted the need to fully implement provisions contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement across the state.
Cultural performances by women’s representatives, storytelling sessions by community elders, and amplification of peace messages were some highlights of this colorful and meaningful event.
“This is how we as South Sudanese women should be able to lead our lives—sharing equal space with our men, having a market for our daily necessities close by and sleeping peacefully under the stars without fear. There is no conflict and no threat to us,” said Toma Paity eloquently, on behalf of women from Mapuordit payam [administrative division] in Yirol West.
For Ruben Akol Yol, Executive Chief of Rumbek East, true peace comes from the heart.
“We are from the same country; we have the same fears, hopes and we thirst for the same peace. We have embraced our sisters and brothers from Yirol West and vow to do our best to keep open, communicative and harmonious relationships with them,” he stated.
The second phase of this exchange programme will be held at Aluak Aluak payam, Yirol West, later this month and will involve football matches, wrestling and other sports to solidify unity and teamwork among participants.