Youth in Maridi, Western Equatoria State, discussing how to promote social cohesion in their communities.
“As youth we must stop tribalism and corruption and promote peace and social cohesion instead,” said Jackline Taban a representative of the Maridi Youth Association.
She was summing up what she had learnt during a workshop organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan together with the non-governmental organization Nonviolent Peace Force.
Jackline and some forty other boys and girls, selected from youth and other civil society groups active in this part of Western Equatoria State, spent a full day discussing how reconciliation, social harmony and a spirit of national identity can be promoted to support the revitalized peace agreement and avoid conflicts.
“I will encourage our youth not to let themselves be used by politicians catering to their own interests. We need to be united and promote peace, because many young people have died during the conflict,” said Bennet Bazia, secretary of the youth union in Maridi County. “One interesting thing I picked up today is that chapter four of the peace agreement stipulates the establishment of a special fund for the youth,” he added.
William Ketto, a civil affairs officer serving the UN peacekeeping mission, is convinced that South Sudanese youth will have a key role to play to promote and maintain peace in their country. He believes that the workshop in Maridi, a county home to at least seven ethnic groups, represented important steps in that direction.
“It was a very productive event. The youth reinforced their commitment to refrain from violence and expressed their willingness to be role models when it comes to mitigating intercommunal conflicts and promoting peaceful coexistence in their areas,” he said.
For such positive attitudes to take root, however, the word must be spread beyond the group of forum participants. Easter Abbas, representing the Maridi Anglican Church, will do her part.
“Everyone needs to understand the importance of youth in building peace, and I will tell the rest of my community everything I have learnt from this meeting,” she vowed.