High and low, young and old - thousands of people were having a jolly good dancing time at a Stand Up for Peace concert in Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria State.
EASTERN EQUATORIA STATE- Everyone, and a few more it seemed, were there. The Governor, an assortment of other dignitaries and, most importantly, some 4,000 other revellers from all walks of life showed up in Kapoeta South County to not only stand up but also dance for peace when the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) rocked up in town to throw a massive party worth writing both home and a story about.
“We are really happy about this joyous peace campaign coming here, and as youth, we promise to play our part in advocating for an end to all kinds of violence. We accept and assume the responsibility to build our communities,” said Kapoeta youth leader Loparan Emmanuel, taking a short break from his dance moves.
Traditional dance troupes, artists from Kapoeta and Juba belting out more modern rhythms and a live gig by the peacekeeping mission’s own Flamingo band kept an ecstatic crowd going for hours on end as there was just no stopping this runaway, peace-fuelled party train.
The young, the elderly, those aged in between, traditional leaders, politicians, and businesspeople joined in, held hands and swirled around as if their lives depended on it, and peace, the clamor for which they were here, is indeed a serious and potentially life-changing matter.
The music concert themed ‘Stand Up for Peace’ is part of an eleven-city music tour organized by UNMISS to promote peaceful coexistence, support the constitution-making process and advocate for inclusive and accountable governance, as well as educate the public on the new UNMISS mandate.
The lyrics of the songs performed by the various artist were aligned with these goals: they were direct, called on youth to shun violence, and urged everyone to embark on building social cohesion. One popular line went: “You the youth, protect your villages, build your home states through co-existence and togetherness.”
“As the peacekeeping mission in the country, one of our tasks is to intensify grassroot campaigns with a specific objective: to tell the youth that they have the responsibility to ensure that peace returns to their country. Do not, even for one moment, think that you are too small or insignificant to contribute to the peace process of your nation,” said Reuben Inaju, Head of the Mission’s Outreach and Advocacy Unit.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to communicate directly with the masses, representatives of parties to the revitalised peace agreement assured the public of their tireless efforts to bring durable peace to South Sudan.
“On behalf of the main opposition party and other parties to the revitalized peace agreement, I assure you that there will be no return to war. Since we will soon unify our forces as one national army, we must embrace peace,” asserted Lopeyok Sami Aperegole, Minister of Education for Eastern Equatoria State and a representative of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition.
The state Governor, Louis Lobong Lojore, had a message that was equally clear: to achieve peace, a lot of work to improve relations with and between youths has to be a priority.
“I am telling citizens of Eastern Equatoria, particularly in Kapoeta, that my administration works in close coordination with all parties to the revitalized peace agreement. We do so as both leaders and children of our state. Party allegiances are not permanent, but our relationship with the communities and the youth that we serve lasts a lifetime,” he stressed.
A lifetime it lasted not, but the Kapoeta party offered several hours of solid rejoicing. The happy memories of it, on the other hand, may well be for life.