South Sudan using Sports to Promote Peace
Boys play a game of soccer in Jiech, Ayod County, South Sudan. VOA
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — South Sudan’s government is trying to promote cohesion and unity in the war-torn nation through a sports competition.
South Sudan’s Culture, Youth and Sports minister said Wednesday the government will transport hundreds of youths to Juba from across the country to take part in nine days of sports activities.
The competition begins Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 4.
Graders and compactors working for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan prepared a soccer field Wednesday near a Juba primary school for the event. A contingent of Bangladeshi peacekeeprs at UNMISS also is renovating four football grounds throughout ahead of the games.
Third annual event
Culture, Youth and Sports Minster Nadia Arop Dudi told VOA that at least 450 young people will participate in men’s and women’s soccer and other tournaments to mark the third annual National Unity Day.
“The selected 12 football (soccer) teams will compete in the tournament and they are Juba, Wau, Malakal, Bentiu, Jonglei, Torit, Yambio, Kuajok, Abyei, Pibor, Aweil and Rumbek,” said Dudi.
A volleyball tournament also will be held among four teams of girls that were selected from around the country.
Dudi said the government wants to unite South Sudanese youth, not divide them.
“The main objective of National Unity Day is to promote the integration of diverse populations through sports of fair play and sportsmanship,” said Dudi.
Funding comes from Japan
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is funding the activities.
JICA representative Taban Koma said his organization believes sports will help build relationships among youths who have been torn apart by the four years of deadly fighting in South Sudan.
“The youth, who will have never met otherwise, get to know each other during the nine-day program, in which they dine and sleep together, participate in educational and recreational activities, and at the end of the program, they make friends with youths from other parts of the country, rejoice the diversity of South Sudan, and ultimately they can play a leading role in bringing about cohesion in the society,” Koma told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
‘Sports unite everybody’
One youth, who asked to be referred to as “Anthony,” said the competition will enable young people to learn important values like team work.
“Sports unite everybody and if you are united, the way you can sit together you discuss some important issues and you can share some ideas that are peace-building,” he said.