Youth in Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State demand opportunities as idleness causes crime and conflict

unmiss south sudan aweil youth participation employment education conflict resolution

Young men and women in Aweil discussing how to become ambassadors for peace. Photo: Emmanuel Kele/UNMISS

6 Jun 2021

Youth in Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State demand opportunities as idleness causes crime and conflict

Emmanuel Kele

Youth representatives from the five counties of Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State say that their frequent idleness, caused by a perceived lack of employment, educational and recreational opportunities, is leading some of them to engage in crime and drug abuse.

“Most of us are not educated. We need more schools, especially for girls, if we are to become good leaders of tomorrow,” said 17-year-old Atong John Atak, adding that her own plans include becoming the first female pilot in the country.

She and more than 40 of her peers gathered in Aweil to participate in a two-day capacity building and conflict management workshop organized by the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

More than 70 per cent of the country’s population are below 30 years of age, and with many of them having difficulties finding meaningful activities to engage in, some are vulnerable to being manipulated and used in violent tribal conflicts orchestrated by others.

“Many young people get involved in these violence activities out of a combination of idleness and desperation. Some are not making use of the few other possibilities available to them in their communities,” said Morris Madut Kon, a lecturer at the University of Juba and one of the facilitators of the workshop.

Inecita Montero, acting head of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Aweil, stressed that the country’s youth must be given ample opportunities to become an active part of decision-making processes.

“Peace can only be achieved with the active participation of young people. Much more needs to be done to address their needs and engage them as ambassadors for peace,” she said.

The training, which resulted in general recommendations such as open-mindedness and constructive dialogue to resolve conflicts, gave many participants new hope. Santino Thiep Arou was one attending young man who felt energized and optimistic.

“From this workshop, I will go back to my community in Aweil North and immediately talk to my peers. I will tell them about the dividends, the benefits, of peace, which is what we need. South Sudan’s revitalized peace agreement is not only for politicians in Juba, it belongs to us as well,” he said.