UNDP Country Director, Kamil Kamaluddeen handed over bicycles, gumboots, and raincoats to the peace committee members as an acknowledgement of the transformation witnessed so far between the youth from the PoC, Rubkona and Bentiu town.
“The materials, if used properly, will advance peace and community support activities, especially during the rainy season. These supplies are a starting point; and this collaboration should bring more support, not just from UNDP, but also from other partners. Where there is peace, a lot can be achieved,” Mr. Kamaluddeen told the youth leaders at a handover ceremony in Bentiu.
As part of the Beyond Bentiu initiative, 44 youth leaders were jointly trained together as peace champions and took up leadership roles in their respective peace committees.
As an outcome of the ground breaking joint activities, the youth champions took ownership of coordination to improve what is now known as the “Youth and Partners Peace Coordination Forum”, where youth from the PoC, Rubkona and Bentiu town, jointly and freely discuss issues and challenges on a regular basis with UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs based in the area.
Many of these youth leaders, and their members, had not met formally since the start of the civil war due to political differences and perceived insecurity.
“Previously, youth in Bentiu and the PoC would fight if they met. It was not safe for us to go to town,” said Angelina, 20, a deputy of the PoC Youth Forum.
“The training we received together taught me about leadership and peace building. Now if I see the youth fighting, I can intervene, and we as youth can do more together – sports, music, dramas. It taught us we are one blood, one people, whether we are in the PoC or living in Bentiu town. We only want peace.”
“A gathering like today would have not been possible in 2015 or 2016. We, as the youth and the people of Bentiu, Rubkona and the PoC, have started trying to improve our relations and move towards peace – even pre-dating the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in Khartoum. Our message is one of unity, let everyone accept peace and understand the realities of living conditions of the people of South Sudan. The message from the youth in Bentiu is enough is enough, and now is our time for peace. The future belongs to us,” said Kang John Bol, Secretary for Peace and Reconciliation in the State Youth Union, mentioning the priorities of the youth in his area are towards livelihood activities, trainings, and how to reduce gender-based violence.
The swell in support of peaceful coexistence, where youth are taking the lead and security is provided by the government, has made it possible to start work on renovation of the Liech Primary School supported by IOM and a forthcoming Youth Centre supported by UNDP.
UNDP and IOM are providing livelihood opportunities for the youth through skills training and start-up kits for businesses. This is aimed at laying the foundation for building resilience and self-reliance among the young people. The delegation on Tuesday visited the construction site of the Youth Centre as well as the Governor’s office for a meeting with the Acting Governor Laraka Machar.
A showcase of cultural interdependency activities was also on display on Tuesday for the delegation.
Cultural activities are aimed to promote social cohesion, strengthen relations and provide spaces for community members from the PoC, Bentiu town and Rubkona to re-connect.
They particularly provide a space for women and girls to express and build confidence among themselves, share experiences through songs and dances, and promote positive peace building messages. Trophies were awarded for the best song, drama, and gala atmosphere.