More than ten cultural groups within the Torit municipal council area, religious leaders, artists and Youth Peace Ambassadors recently engaged in various activities aimed at engendering community cohesion through nonviolent approaches.
Different Communities shared local wine and a traditional beer, locally known as ‘kpete’, in the spirit of togetherness at the municipal dancing ground.
“Our voice as the women of South Sudan: we don’t want war anymore,” said Jackline Kuba, a female Lotuko traditional music dancer, after sipping some ‘kpete’ from an enormous calabash. “Our children have suffered from the conflict,” she continued, “some of them are now roaming around the market,” she added, reflecting on the effects of conflict and her personal experience.
Indeed, many like Jackline narrated their experience about the disruption that years of conflict had caused to their cultural and economic activities, while expressing their call for full implementation of the recently-signed revitalized peace agreement.
Traditional groups confirmed that engagement between the UN mission in the country and the communities is beginning to pay off. They said trust and confidence could be built on the continuous interaction between the mission’s staff and the communities through meetings, workshops, and organizing events to unify positive opinions, thought and decisions.
Local leaders were quick to caution that national peace must begin by consolidating peace at the local levels, and acknowledged that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as a partner for peace was an avenue for supporting local peace initiatives.
A few months ago, UNMISS and the South Sudan Inter-religious Council engaged South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) in a consultative meeting, seeking their consent to dialogue with civilians for peaceful co-existence.
“I’m happy with the United Nations for organizing this,” said James Ohisa, a community member from Ikotos County. “People should not fight again, those who are outside should come back home; let us live together as one people. People have to show good directions to others,” he said, impressed by the UN Mission’s support for the event.
He however reminded fellow citizens to forgive one another to pave way for national reconciliation.
The event was organized by the area Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNMISS Civil Affairs Division, focusing on cultural dance performances, drama, and messages of peace.
Held at the Torit Municipal Council, the day’s programme grouped the ten traditional dances into four zones. With pride in their culture and respect for their diversity, communities interacted freely and listened to messages of peace and social cohesion from religious leaders, youth peace ambassadors, and the UN mission.
“By bringing all the traditional dancers together, we have realized peace and we are demonstrating [this] to you to take the message down to the grassroots,” Torit area Director for Culture, Justin Ondogo explained, encouraging citizens to shun division and work collectively to address the challenges facing their communities.
The Torit Peace and Cultural Outreach Project seeks to promote peace, social harmony, inclusivity, diversity and national identity within the Torit Municipal Council area.