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South Sudanese use unity day to rally for peace

 South Sudanese use unity day to rally for peace

After years of war that fractured the social fabric in the youngest nation, South Sudanese from all walks of life are now hoping to use the national unity day to rally for peace.
Ayuel Chol, a -19- year-old secondary school leaver from oil-rich Ruweng Administrative Area, one of the three special administrative areas of South Sudan told Juba Echo on Sunday that the sports games conducted during the national unity day have the potential to bring cohesiveness among his countrymen.
“It means a lot to me because it has bought us together as South Sudanese for example, I met new people that I have not met before, and that means a lot to us. I met someone from Bor and I met someone from Bentiu and we are friends now, this is my first time and I like it very much,” said Chol at Buluk sports grounds in Juba.
The weeklong 6th national unity day games were organized by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) bringing together 2,800 participants, including 890 females from across the states and administrative areas.
The national unity day games commenced in 2016 and are aimed at bringing South Sudanese youth together to show unity and reconciliation.
The sports games came in the aftermath of the recent announcement by the main-opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in opposition (SPLM/A-IO) withdrawing from the various security mechanisms under the 2018 revitalized peace deal.
Riek Machar, First Vice President in the transitional unity government and leader of SPLM/A-IO said his party was withdrawing from the security mechanisms due to “unprovoked” attacks on his troops prompting fears of a return to war.
“For me, I can say we are safe bringing 13 states together, when I see 13 states combined together I see peace in South Sudan and I have hope that in some months coming peace is going to be there,” said Chol.
Badi Aligwara, coach of the Western Equatoria state football team that participated in the tournament said it offers an opportunity for peace and social cohesion.
“We have known each other and we have made a lot of friends in the ten states, as people of South Sudan we want to work for unity, and equality and not be divided,” said Aligwara.
“I am concerned because those whom we played with we may not play with them again, my last message to the people of South Sudan is that unity is greater,” said Nafisa Said Costa, an athlete from Western Bahr el Ghazal state.
Costa disclosed that the sports tournament helped young South Sudanese to mingle and share ideas on the future of the country.
“People from Juba have met friends from states and three administrative areas, they sat together and held a cordial discussion,” said Costa.
Peter Baptist, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports said the national unity day is meant to help promote peace and social cohesion across the country.
“The reason for national unity day is to promote interaction, friendship and unity among the youth which contributes to peace and social cohesion of the people of South Sudan, it includes sports and peacebuilding activities among the youth of different ages,” said Baptist.
Sagara Fuyuki, Country Representative of Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) that organized the national unity day said they also held a peace workshop alongside the sports games to enable South Sudanese to discuss social issues.
“Aside from the sports we have a peace workshop this provides a good opportunity for the participants to think about social issues and peace in South Sudan,” said Fuyuki.
“All of you need to unite in order to create an environment where you can play sports, and youth can pursue their own objectives without their dreams being shattered by violence, hatred and discrimination,” added Fuyuki.

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