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Youth Peacemaker Network in South Sudan
Given the dire need for support and recovery among youth in South Sudan, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) established the Youth Peacemaker Network in South Sudan (YPN). This program seeks to strengthen the leadership capacity of former child soldiers, orphans and youth impacted by conflicts and violence in South Sudan. The goal of the YPN is to empower youth with peace-building and conflict management/mitigation skills, meditation and life-skills as well as ICT skills to help build a peaceful network of young leaders who possess the capacity to strengthen their respective communities by implementing community-building projects. In this way, South Sudanese youth serve as productive agents of change who contributes to nation-building and peace from within. This program also includes long-term mentoring and skills development in order to promote attractive opportunities for these and other youth. WPDI will complement these activities by providing micro-funding initiatives that will build economic resources.
WPDI began implementing the YPN program in South Sudan as a Pilot Program with youth from Jonglei State in 2012. This network has served as an invaluable early-warning system among the youth in the program during December 2013, when the country faced a sudden surge in conflict and deadly violence. The youth in the YPN used this network to maintain contact and provide support to one another during a perilous and uncertain time in a much-degraded security environment.
WPDI has set itself to refocus the YPN redeploying and redesigning its activities in Eastern Equatoria State, which is relatively stable and therefore provides an environment conducive for peace-building activities to take root. The YPN initiative in Eastern Equatoria will launch in mid-2014.
Testimonials from YPN Members:
John is from Twic East County and a member of YPN 2012. “Soon after the news broke out from Juba alleging that Dinkas are killing Nuer I took part in a journey to Twic East with my commissioner. The journey was to inform local chiefs that the conflict in Juba was not tribal.”
In hours we reached the county headquarters and advocated for calms and gave them encouraging messages for peace sensitizing the youths not to commit violence. After that we started our journey back to Bor South County.
Somewhere in the Bush traveling, Teny, a Nuer from Nyirol County also a member of YPN 2012 called to check on me. After knowing that I was traveling from Twic to Bor he informed me that the road was not safe and advised me not to travel back to Bor on same rout. Just before we finished conversing, an RPG was shot at us. The driver was immediately killed and the car drove aimlessly into the bush where everybody jammed out running for their lives.
Suddenly, some armed youth showed from the opposite bushes and started firing at us. In the process nine passengers were killed and I was shot in the hip and pointer finger while running. I run for many hours that day till government troops found us and carried us to Juba where currently I receive medical treatment. I thank God for having me such a wonderful friend as Teny for his moderate attitude and concern. Yes, I am wounded but I am not bitter at all, I know that soon moderate youth will increase in number and peace will prevail.
Nyajuok is one of the 22 YPN members who have come across Jonglei to join the YPN, from her home county of Uror county. Since 2012 after she and others in the YPN benefitted from the first WPDI training on peace-building, conflict resolution and ICT skills, Nyajuok was back to her county of Uror, advocating peace and conflict resolution to community. Plans were already afoot for follow-up trainings and intense community projects support from WPDI when conflict broke out in December 2013 in Juba, then rapidly spreading to all parts of the Greater Upper Nile region. The ensuing chaos threw Nyajuok and her family into disarray – with the whole community literally obliterated by marauding militia forces and other fighting groups. Nyajuok lost all her belongings that include: documents, money, and personal effects like clothes. Nyajuok’s whole family, relatives and friends got displaced and scattered in the vast areas of the state. Until today she is uncertain whether they are alive or dead. The homestead where Nyajuok used to live
Testimonials from Nimule YPN Community Multimedia and Business Center:
Gai (Senior four Student–18 years old). I started coming to the computer center since May this year, and picked interest in learning computer skills in order to know modern technologies. I have learnt very many things and it is interesting to me. Knowing more about computers has helped me become a more modern student. I am now able to get information that I could not be able to know before. I now have an email address and I can communicate anywhere in the World easily. Accessing the internet quickies a huge service. The center has made it possible for me to interact with people even from other ethnic groups, they have become good friends to me now. <
Artha Akoo Kaka
Artha (Senior three Student–16 years old). I had heard about computers from people I know who had used them but I had never seen one with my eyes. Then I heard that WPDI had opened a computer center here at the youth center and that free trainings were offered. I immediately picked interest to come and learn. Since I started learning about computers, I am more and more interested. I come here very often in order to access computers because now I have known how useful computer is. After learning how to use the Internet, I began to learn many things like the history of Nelson Mandela or President Obama. I have also open an email account and sent an E-mail to my teacher and he replied. I am very happy to be able to access any information that I need any time and this is possible because of this center. I have liked the books especially the short story books. They are very interesting. The center has also made it possible for me to interact with many people and I have met many friends. <
Moga (ICT Tutor–22 years old). I am a student studying for my Diploma in ICT. When I came back for my holidays here, I heard about this computer center and I was very happy because it was the perfect place for me to do my internship. I approached the administrator who accepted my application. I think that the facilities are very useful and modern. The students I am training are very good; they are coping up very fast, and they are happy to acquire knowledge about computers. It is not only for them that it is true, but for me as well because I am also a youth. The internet is helping me a lot. I use it for my research, especially the website of wikiHow, which I used to learn more things about ICTs. Finally I am happy with WPDI and its partners for providing these opportunities for the youth here because I met and interacted with some people whom I didn’t know before.
Testimonials from Youth in POC Camp WPDI’s Peace Through Sports Program:
Santo (26 years old), Captain of BNFA FC. It is very interesting to tell you how the WPDI’s Peace Through Sports program has helped me. After the December crisis, I had become helpless because I had lost my parents and friends. Life was very difficult here in the UNMISS camp. But when the Peace Through Sports program was introduced to all the youths in the POC camp, I became part of the program. We formed a football team called BNFA, which stands for BENTU, NASIRE, and PANGUR, the three counties our teammates come from. I was able to make new friends, socialize, and find peace of mind. After the training offered to us by WPDI on football and psychosocial support, I feel encouraged. And indeed we have learned a lot, especially on how to manage stress and losses during times of difficulty.
Gatluak (22 years old), Captain of Maale FC. I am 22 years old and a captain of Maale FC. Maale is a word from the Nuer language that means “how are you.” The Peace through Sports program, I am excited to tell you, is the only activity in the POC camp that has reduced crime in the camp. Here on the WPDI field, every morning and evening, all the youths are always eager to engage in sports. And this has reduced idleness and abuses, such as sexual immorality, among the youths. Also, the trainings and group discussions that the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative offers have promoted the spirit of cooperation, team work, togetherness, and discipline among all of us here in the camp. I am requesting the organization to continue supporting us through these sports activities so that we can continue to gain knowledge.
Gatjang Dagor Gatluak
Gatjang, Field manager for WPDI’s Peace Through Sports program and coach of N Four FC. When I think about WPDI’s Peace Through Sports program, I feel happy. Since we started engagement with sports activities, many problems in the camp disappeared, such as fighting among the youths and people separating according to their clans. This means that this program is truly a tool to bring together people from different backgrounds. I really want to express my appreciation to WPDI for targeting the youths through this program and especially for providing the peace trainings that we are undertaking these days. I know that, by the time we leave the POC camps, we will have become a different people who are able to be patient, especially when dealing with problems in our society. The sports and training activities have made us able to interact freely with one another and to discuss issues that affect us.
WPDI South Sudan Staff
David Dagu, Program Manager
Lewi Aligo, Program Coordinator
Paul Levi Wagbia, Program Assistant
Alexander Moro, Sports Facilitator