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Disability proves no obstacle to promoting peace through sport for wheelchair athlete

Soudan du Sud
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Wang Deng is proud of, and passionate about, his country.

In 2002, the former soldier in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army was injured during a fierce battle on the frontlines of the war for independence in the city of Malakal in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan.

He was rushed by his fellow combatants to a military facility, but his injury was so severe that his leg had to be amputated.

He is now largely confined to a wheelchair. But he said this is just another challenge in life and won’t prevent him continuing his quest for peace and prosperity in his beloved country.

He says the disability also provides him with a golden opportunity to indulge his athletic prowess and competitive nature through wheelchair basketball.

“I am working hard to see that, one day, I will be a member of the team that will win a wheelchair basketball trophy for South Sudan,” he says. “It’s only my leg, my mind is not affected.”

Wang Deng shared his life experience during a series of sporting events carried out during National Unity Day celebrations, where 500 young athletes came together to promote peace through sport in Juba.

Unfortunately, his team from Wau lost 20-18 but Wang Deng said participating in good spirits was more important than winning.

The basketball game was sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Association along with a series of other sporting events as part of National Unity Day to promote peace and social cohesion. The event was also supported by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

“I feel the world is one community after I met many new friends, including other people with disabilities, during the competition,” says Deng. “I am even energized to work positively for peace.”

The 32-year-old father of three is one of 105 members of the South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association drawn from the capital Juba and towns of Yirol and Wau. He hustles enough money to meet the basic needs of his family through his retail business selling products in Juba’s Konyo-Konyo market, despite the challenges of relying on a wheelchair to get around.

To Deng, people with disabilities are just as functional as those without these challenges. But he says the government should do more to assist, including providing wheelchairs, capacity-building to help find jobs and building sports facilities that cater for people with special needs.

“We are also people who can support our communities and the government in many ways. Our disability does not interfere with our abilities,” he says.