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Women, youth equip communities to deter ‘hostilities’ in S. Sudan

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By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon

Juba, (May 25, 2023) – Women and youth in lobbying and advocacy positions are working hard to create positive narratives towards cultivating virtuous deeds and constructive vibes among the hostile communities in South Sudan.

According to the United Nations, a distinct surge of hostilities across the country has marred the lives of locals and is hindering the search for common peace within the conflict-affected areas.

In its report, at least 3,469 civilians or more were reported as having been affected by hostility-related violence, including killings, injuries, and conflict-related sexual violence, in 2022 alone.

The brief further reveals that while the number of violent incidents attributed to the parties to the conflict declined by 37 percent in comparison with 2021, the number of victims due to hostilities increased by 58 percent.

In September 2022, the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyanti, expressed deep concerns over the latest round of violence in Upper Nile and its consequences for civilians.

But to deter such occurrences, some women and youth groups waded into the murky waters of the elusive peace in a bid to enable violence-free communities.

While others await the government’s solution, the strategy employed by some young women and men involves engaging youth from different diversities and conflict-affected communities to dialogue among themselves. Other unique approaches include effective engagements such as peacebuilding sessions, counselling, conflict resolution, and trauma healing.

Achol Gabriel, a young woman in her early 30s, said she opted for community-based campaigns and social cohesion reinforcement in a move to restore hopes and eradicate hostilities amongst the communities.

“Fear, anger, and anxiety are common among our hostile communities, and they could threaten public health. So, I came up with a number of initiatives that include cultural peace festivals to create avenues for social interaction and civic engagement,” she explained.

“During our past activities with my team, we engaged about 200 youth from conflict-affected communities through meetings, dialogues, and focus group discussions on how to end the hostilities,” she added.

According to the young woman, all such energy and efforts were geared towards engaging the youth in playing a critical role in cultivating peace and reducing post-traumatic disorders in an elusive attempt to grasp peace across the country.

Prevention of further disarrays such as depression, anxiety, and traumatic disorders triggered by past events were affecting the communities, and it was time for change makers to tackle the gripes, according to the women’s rights network of Jonglei State.

Ms. Gabriel revealed that she had to bring together local youth leaders and top government officials in the conflict zone areas to discuss peace matters and shun conflict, adding that it was high time to change local mindsets from bad to positive thinking.

According to her, the platform was critical for the young people to showcase their talents and arts for peace.

For his part, Peter Malir Biar, executive director at the Christian Agency for Peace and Development, a faith-based national organization in South Sudan, revealed that he has been engaging the herders and local communities so that it creates space for conflict resolution.

“Based on the local research, it was clear that hostilities among the communities have been spiking because the locals do not engage with each other. So, I had to embark on an art for peace fellowship and organize a high-level dialogue that brought together the communities and the herders to discuss their grievances and how they can be eliminated,” he added.

The conference conducted in Juba attracted over 100 local youth from Pibor Administrative Area and Jonglei State. Hostilities have consistently been reported in those places.

In his words, Malir affirmed that the community was challenged by radicalism and that there was a need to eliminate its occurrence among the communities so that peaceful cohabitation and stability could be achieved as soon as possible.

Hostilities have been reported among the communities of Jonglei, Lakes, and Warrap states, respectively, for the last few years, according to local reports.

Martin Wang, an independent foreign affairs researcher and security analyst based in Juba, affirmed that the role of women and young people was key in combating radicalism among the communities.

“Firstly, they are part of the community. They understand the drivers of conflict, and they can be part of the solution as well. So, in a nutshell, youth and women can create positive narratives about the negative events that incite communities against each other,” he stressed. 

Wang disclosed that “the young people can work with communities or social groups at risk of radicalization to build resilience to extremists’ ideology.”

In addressing hostilities, according to Wang, communities should be engaged through creative arts and sports as well as conducting research to inform evidence-based advocacy on violent extremism among the communities.

According to research conducted by an international platform on sport and development, sport brings people together and strengthens dialogue between nations and communities in a sustainable manner.

Teaching its values to young people also helps prevent many problems in the communities that are most affected by violence and poverty.

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