South Sudan: Building Peace in Our Communities
by Mawa Seme
Monday 21 September brought a great deal of rain to the town of Pagak in Maiwut county, Upper Nile state. But it didn’t dampen the joy and excitement among the community. It was World Peace Day, and hundreds were converging on the town’s CARE-supported peace centre, many of them walking from neighbouring villages to take part, distances of twenty kilometres and more. They were dancing and singing, not even the mud was a deterrent.
Peace is what the people of South Sudan have been longing for - women, men and children alike. I could see it in the eyes of Michael*, a seven year old boy, shoeless and wearing an over-sized torn shirt. But Michael stood tall, holding a banner that said ''Peace is a human right. Hen gora mal kewoo gora de pish kade woo duwel gora,'' meaning “I need peace, because I want to grow and go to school” in the local Nuer language.
South Sudan was full of hope when we gained independence in 2011, but those hopes were dashed with the violence of December 2013, and the long months of conflict that followed. The signing of the Compromise Peace Agreement in August this year is a huge step in the right direction: for peace, for reconciliation, and for Michael to grow and go to school.
Tuesday 15 December marks two years since the fighting broke out, forcing more than two million South Sudanese from their homes, and leaving almost four million – roughly a third of our young country’s population – without enough to eat.
Here in Maiwut county, CARE is helping build peace by supporting the local peace committee, Village Savings and Loans Associations, and a youth group. Peace and economic development may seem an odd combination but it’s working. Peacebuilding and economic development are two sides of the same coin: trading links and small businesses are acting as a force for peace between communities and, within communities, peace structures are strengthening economic activity.
And if we don’t build peace in our communities, how can we expect to know it at national level?
South Sudan needs peace and prosperity. We need sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We need a country that is secure and with united communities, that is integrated and regionally competitive; a country filled with hope, opportunities, liberties and freedom, and with prosperity for all. A country that is open to the world, and one that we are proud to call home.
* CARE is committed to being a child safe organization. Names of children have been changed.
Mawa Seme is a Program Officer with CARE in Pagak, Upper Nile state.