Excitement in Mangateen as new peace-building campaign spreads
By Jale Richard
Multi-ethnic communities living in Mangateen area, Newsite, Mia-Saba, Hai referendum, Gudele, and Aden area in the outskirts of Juba were excited over the weekend when they witnessed the launch of a peace-building campaign, under the theme #HIBJERAN.
Thousands gathered at the football field just outside the perimeter fence of the Mangateen settlement camp to attend the event theme “HIBJERAN,” a local Arabic phrase meaning “love your neighbor.”
The peace-building campaign is spearheaded by Active Citizen-a right-based, nonviolence youth-led national organization with support from the European Union through the empower project in partnership with Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
To the pleasure of the crowd, two girls’ football teams kicked off the performances when they played against each other. Men’s football, children’s racing, volleyball, and cultural performances from different communities sheltering inside the camp then ensued to close the day’s excitement.
Peter Diew, the leader of a Nuer cultural group from former Unity State-Bentiu says the day was colorful and the youth received message of peace.
“Today is a colorful day and we enjoyed the day because it brought together all the mixed groups-the Luo, Chollo, the Ruweng, Nuer and many other ethnic communities. So it is a mixture of all cultures and it can bring peace to our country,” Mr. Diew says after his group’s performances.
“Our main objective as a cultural group is to bring all the youth together and preach them peace using our different cultural practices because the youth are the ones used for fighting the wars in our country.”
Mr. Diew, has lived through the horrors of the South Sudan conflict that displaced him to the internally displaced people’s camp. He says conditions in the camp are not favorable, and that there is urgent need for peace to return to the country.
He says he hopes a new unity government will be formed soon, for the displaced people to return to their homes.
“My message to the people of South Sudan is to have peace because being in a country is being together in peace. God created us together in this country not with a mistake but it has a meaning,” Mr. Diew added.
The cultural group leader encouraged leaders of the other cultural groups to love each other regardless of their ethnicity.
“If you are from any tribe, you are created by God for our country South Sudan. I think to coexist peacefully is the way for us to live as people of the same country.”
He says in the past, youths from different communities were lured by politicians to fight, but now there is need to educate the youth about using their diverse ethnic backgrounds to build strong relationships that can be used to develop the country.
Mr. Diew says the peace-building campaign also provided an opportunity for youth from different ethnic groups to become friends and learn from each other’s cultures.
He urges peace lovers not to “sit and wait for the politicians to bring peace but let them start work at the local level so that by the time the political leaders bring peace, we shall all be united and strong.”
Meanwhile Alier Leek, a trained referee who officiated both the girls’ and men’s football matches, says the footballers should use the discipline they learned in football to promote peace.
“Sports promote peace because the way people are playing, it brings all the South Sudanese together as one team,” Mr. Leek says. “In sports we are one. Such a unity can be extended to the entire country to promote peace.”
The football referee also urged his fellow youth to shun violence in order to embark on education, or sports.
“I would like to tell my fellow youth that this war has ended. When you are called to take a gun and fight, tell them you are tired of war and you don’t want anything like that. It is enough. Why do we follow them? I have my ambition. I can continue with my education, I can play my football, why do I harm my brother? After all the youth are the ones killing each other yet the army generals and their bosses are sitting in their offices. The next day they will unite and greet each other and say the war is over when thousands of youth would have died,” Mr. Leek emphasized.
In accordance with the theme of the campaign, Mr. Leek encouraged South Sudanese to love their neighbors.
He says, “Your neighbor is the first person to support you in case you have any challenge. So love your neighbor and love everybody like the campaign says.”
For Paramount Chief of Mangaten, Juma Ngundeng, the youth-led peace-building campaign will help in connecting the diverse communities both the people in the IDP camps and the host population.
Chief Ngundeng encouraged young people to unite in order to build the country’s future.
He says the theme of the campaign “love your neighbor” is interesting because without peace, there would be no love for neighbors.
Michael Biphal Thot, the Program Manager of Active Citizen South Sudan says the purpose of the campaign is to empower the local population residing in close neighborhood to become the champion of peaceful neighbors and use non-violent means in resolving pressing issues for them to become peaceful members in their communities.
“The sports and cultural activities are our major connectors of the communities. So many people come together to watch cultural activities, and football games. It brings them together and it provides a learning space for them to know each other’s culture and learn of their diversity as South Sudanese,” says Mr. Biphal.
“We came up with “HIBJERAN” based on our previous engagements with the people of Mangaten settlement especially the youth in Mangateen. And they told Active Citizen South Sudan that “we need a platform that could bring the youth together” The diversity of the communities is so important. It could be a point for other people in other societies to learn. So this can be an example for bringing so many different communities of South Sudanese to live together as the people of Mangateen do.”
He says the peace-building campaign resulted from the desire to tell people that South Sudan is made up of diverse communities who need to treat their neighbors as their immediate supporters rather than treating them as enemies.
Mr. Biphal added that the youths-being the majority in this country should use their energy to build relationships instead of looking at each other as enemies.
“When they become friends, South Sudan can change for the better and that is what we want. We want South Sudan to become more peaceful, and the youth should look at each other as collective pillars for progress,” he added.