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In the refugee settlement of Kiryandongo, Northern Uganda, the Whitaker Peace Cup is set to become a celebration of peaceful coexistence

WPDI is proud to announce that last Tuesday, on 5 September, we launched the Whitaker Peace Cup in the Refugee Settlement of Kiryandongo in northern Uganda.

For four months, more than 70 soccer teams – including girls and children’s teams – will compete to come closer together, build friendships across ethnic lines and promote peace among the different groups inside and outside the camp. The launch took place in a very festive atmosphere and attracted a very large and eager public, including representatives from the UN as well as the Ugandan District authorities.

The Whitaker Peace Cup is a key feature in our Peace Through Sports program, which aims to disseminate a culture of peace and non-violence by drawing on sports as an entertaining school of respect for the others and for rules. The program consists in activities combining sports and peacebuilding – practice sessions with training workshops and games with conferences and cultural events. Peace Through Sports aim for both short-term and long-term impacts, by providing an opportunity to evacuate the stress of camp life, thus lowering tensions among residents, and by promoting values, attitudes and behaviors of prevention and reconciliation, to dispel desires of revenge.

Since the launch of the program in Kiryandongo, a lot has happened already. We have teams participating in competitions outside the camp and two coaches from the Federation of Uganda Football Associations have been appointed– one female and one male – to train 6 of our teams. We also consider it a key achievement that some of our teams are composed of both Nuer and Dinka, two tribes whose mutual animosity fuel the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.

Samuel Kong, Captain of a male team, told us: “I am very happy to be part of this peace through sports program because it has brought youths together, teaching us professional skills of football through the coaches in the program. The peace topics taught to us have helped bring closer together youths who were hostile and to agree to live with each other in peace.”

Cicilia Adong, Captain of a Female Team, observed that: “Many of us girls in this program appreciate WPDI for making it possible for us to learn to work together with boys, appreciating the differences in other girls and accommodating each other through the peace lessons taught to us. Ever since I joined this program, I have changed my life style because it has taught me to make good life choices, respecting others and having confidence in myself and tolerance for the others.”

We implement the program with young people in different settings and countries, but it is a fact that it finds its origin in a visit made by our CEO/Founder, Forest Whitaker, of a camp for displaced persons in Juba, South Sudan. Upon discovering the dire plight of the residents and realizing the feelings of abandonment and disenfranchisement of young people constituted a recipe for future challenges, he decided to create a program that would help combat desires of revenge while providing psychosocial support. Very shortly into its creation, the program became very popular in the whole camp, both for its youth participants and for the residents in general, who treasure this window of passion and solace.

Given the success of the program in the Juba camp for displaced persons, it was thus only natural to create a new branch of Peace Through Sports in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement where we implement the Youth Peacemaker Network program supported by the Western Union Foundation.