UNMISS peacekeepers revamp the University of Juba football ground
UNMISS heavy machines are bulldozing their way at the University of Juba as the Japanese contingent of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has launched a renovation exercise today to improve the university’s football field. This is the first phase of the Mission’s “Sports for Peace” initiative and local universities will compete in a football tournament next month on the renovated ground.
For the next two weeks, the UNMISS Japanese contingent will be busy at the University of Juba, flattening the ground, and removing gravels for the local footballers using bulldozers, graders and other heavy machines.
Speaking during the launch, a member of the Japanese engineering company tasked with the reconstruction exercise expressed their strong commitment to supporting the South Sudanese people regardless of their tribes or ethnicities.
“I am honored to contribute to creating a conducive environment where youngsters like the university students can play freely together,” said the platoon leader representing a team of 10 peacekeepers working on the sports field.
Based on the survey conducted by the engineering team earlier last week, currently, the football field is slanted at a 2.0-degree angle and the UNMISS peacekeepers will shovel the soil and make the slope as flat as possible. They will plan to raise the lower end of the field by 50 centimeters.
This intervention by UNMISS will help students resume sporting activities after a six-year lull. Raphael Juba Zacharia, Secretary for the University of Juba Sports Union, says the stadium had remained closed since February 2012. He is excited to see their football field coming back to life.
“Sports is one of the most important ways through which our people will get to understand themselves better. Sports will make people from the farthest ends of Eastern Equatoria and Northers Bahr El-Ghazal stay together, bringing to an end the elements of tribalism, so that we shall see ourselves as South Sudanese.”
Kostiy Gabriel Raback, University of Juba Sports Tutor, says, “Sports is about peace; wherever you are and whoever you are, whichever tribe you belong to, sports is always a unifying factor,” stressing the power of sports to instill a culture of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in students, the future of South Sudan.
UNMISS is supporting the youth of South Sudan to become “a generation of believers in peace, reconciliation and dialogue for an inclusive society.” “This project is initiated to bring together youngsters of Juba and help them better understand the importance of working towards one unified South Sudan,” said Hiroyuki Saito, UNMISS’s Head of Outreach Unit.
Saito reiterates that activities like this, conducted by UNMISS, are “ultimately not a sustainable solution.” UNMISS comes in to support the people of South Sudan only when other responsible actors can’t do so. “We do hope that the government, local authorities and other relevant actors will step up in the future and provide further long-term assistance to those in need of support.”