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Inclusive constitution-making process and better security focus of a peace event in Juba

Peace may begin with a new permanent constitution being drafted in an inclusive fashion. Recently, students at the University of Juba had their say at an event organized by UNMISS. Photos: James Sokiri/UNMISS

CENTRAL EQUATORIA – With elections slated for 2024, a peace process riddled with delays and the need to write an inclusive permanent constitution, South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is at a critical moment in its history.

To galvanize public participation in the country’s long-awaited democratic transition, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan is kicking off a series of awareness-raising campaigns under the theme, ‘Peace Begins with Me.’

The first one naturally focused on youth. Some 500 students at the University of Juba, drawn from 30 different academic disciplines, and their professors came together to discuss key issues related to peace and security.

“Peace and war are opposites. A durable peace gives citizens the chance to develop their full potential and affect meaningful social transformation. All of us have an individual responsibility to help usher lasting peace in our families, neighbourhoods, and communities,” said Adams Chollong Ohire, the University’s Dean.

“Sitting here and talking constructively about shaping a brighter, more prosperous South Sudan with young people is vital because they are the future,” he added, appreciating this initiative by the UN Peacekeeping mission.

Reuben Inaju, the Head of the mission’s Community Outreach Unit agreed.

“When we speak of peace beginning with the individual, we are looking at our collective responsibility to create a harmonious social fabric. To energize collective action, everybody must do their part. If you internalize peace, you will be able to spread that feeling around you,” he explained. 

Many other participants put out significant viewpoints.

For Milton Melingasuk, Acting Vice Chancellor at the University, peace is the foundation of democracy.

“When you build peace, you nurture a successful nation,” he stated.

Security is another vital element of a stable society, according to Esther Kyewalabye, a Senior Humanitarian Adviser with the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, the body that monitors the progress of the 2018 peace deal.

“Without strong security, displaced people will not return to their original settlements; they will have no means of rebuilding their lives,” she stated. “Additionally, conducting free, fair, and credible elections needs a robust security apparatus. Peace and security are inextricably intertwined.”

Students, too, were frank in expressing their opinions.

“Much of the intercommunal conflict we see across the country today stems from ignorance of shared social and cultural values that can bind us together under a unified national identity. This event organized by UNMISS gives a platform for all of us to get to know each other, which will, in turn expedite the country’s development,” said Deng Manong Jock, a student from the University’s Anthropology Department.

On South Sudan’s permanent constitution, a spirited debate ensued between the participants and facilitators on the need for inclusivity while drafting this important document.

“Writing a constitution is the quintessential act of sovereignty for any nation, and South Sudan is no exception. It requires widespread and inclusive consultations across the country to make sure that the final document reflects the will of every citizen. Everybody deserves to have a say in how they are governed,” clarified Emmanuel Ret Chol, a Political Affairs Officer from UNMISS.

Similar campaigns are being planned in different universities across Juba.