Discussing Peace through Public Debates in Bor, Wau and Rumbek

Dec 21, 2016

Participants raise their hands to speak during the public debate in Wau. Photo: UNDP

Juba University’s Centre for Peace and Development Studies in collaboration with University of Rumbek, University of Bahr el Ghazal and Dr. John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology organized a series of public debates for more than 700 participants under the theme Strengthening the Social Fabrics of South Sudan in Bor, Wau and Rumbek.

“We all come from different walks of life, but we came together here to talk about peace,” said Dr. Abraham Matoc Dhal, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance of the University of Bahr el Ghazal during the public debate in Wau. “Let us not defend our positions, let us understand this debate as a dialogue where we listen to what each of us has to say,” he continued in his opening remarks.

There was a unified voice calling for forgiveness and peaceful coexistence in all three locations. In Rumbek, Professor Joshua Otor from the University of Juba appealed to fellow South Sudanese to forgive each other. “We are a war-torn country as evidenced by rampant internal and external displacements. Our people are dying in big numbers every day. This should stop immediately if we really want to build a strong country. We must strive to forgive, heal and reconcile with each other,” he said.

The public debates aim to share knowledge about peace, engage participants in discussions and enable them to share their views and come up with ideas of how to sustain peace. When asked by a participant how the social fabrics could be strengthened, Dr. Mario Awet from Juba University’s Centre for Peace and Development Studies said: “We are not here to provide answers. What we are doing right now, having this debate, is contributing to it.”

Each debate started off with a presentation of research papers by professors from each of the four universities, followed by inputs from the participants and an open discussion. The presentations provided an overview of general concepts about peace and conflict and delved further into the specific context of the three locations. Another round of debates is planned for early 2017. An issue paper will also be produced to capture the inputs and discussions during the debates, in order to share the findings with a wider audience. 

“Messages of peace are very important. When you go back, let the people back home benefit from what was discussed here,” said Governor of Western Lakes State Abraham Makoi Bol Kodi, during his opening remarks in Rumbek.

The debates were targeting representatives from the state government, academia, civil society, church leaders, community members and organized forces. As part of the debates, students from the three universities performed educational dramas to set the scene for the discussions.

“One day is not enough. We need more time to share our ideas and come up with solutions,” said one of the participants in Bor. Other participants highlighted that there is a need for further public debates on peacebuilding engaging the youth in the cattle camps or countryside. The Western Lakes State Gov. Kodi echoed this call and recommended that similar debates should be held in the villages to involve the youth and chiefs.

The series of public debates is supported by UNDP’s Community Security and Small Arms Control (CSAC) project as part of its efforts to strengthen civil society voices. The activity is funded by the Government of Sweden.

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