Rumbek University students: “We have a great role to play in bringing peace” to South Sudan

Mar 27, 2017

Students gather at the Rumbek University of Science and Technology to participate in a peace debate on “strengthening the social fabrics among South Sudanese communities”. Photo: ©UNDP

“We can change this community. They say the people who can change the world are the people who take out the word ‘impossibility’ from their dictionaries,” said Mr. Deng Deng Mayuen, an English and geography student at the Rumbek University of Science and Technology. “The right people who can change [what’s happening] are those willing to go to the grassroots to talk to the people.”

During recent community peace discussions held at the Rumbek University of Science and Technology, students were outspoken about their responsibility to participate and engage on the theme of the day’s discussion, “Strengthening the social fabrics among South Sudanese communities”.

“As the students of this university, we will take this information and we will go and distribute messages about peace, peace, peace, and bring it to the communities where we came from...we are going to enlighten them, and say, this is the importance of peace…these are the advantages, as we have discussed them here today,” said Mr. Ariik Ariik, fourth year economics student at the university.

0H2A0321Students from Rumbek University of Science and Technology review the discussion agenda. Photo: ©UNDP

The public debate builds upon the first round of events held in Wau, Bor, and Rumbek at the end of 2016, and was supported collaboratively by UNDP’s Community Security and Arms Control project and the University of Juba’s Centre for Peace and Development. The Government of Sweden funded the activity which drew hundreds of participants.

The day’s debate/discussion was grounded in the presentations of three academic papers prepared by faculty of Rumbek University of Science and Technology and the University of Juba. Their topics analyzed the root causes of conflict among the local communities, the impact of conflict on women and children, and pathways to peaceful coexistence in the Greater Lakes States. Each paper came with policy recommendations which were proposed and then responded to by the audience.

The students performed an educational drama which depicted some of the themes of the day. The topics of the papers and the drama sparked discussion through the breaks and even after the speakers and students wrapped up at the end of the full day event.

“What I have seen today is something that has impressed me a lot, as a peace debate,” said Mr. Mamuor Achol, a statistics student. “We need to look back to the past to understand the present…we had happiness, we had hope, and we wanted to be independent so we could enjoy everything here. But things fell apart. The solution is to come into forgiveness and reconciliation, face-to-face – not to forgive someone in long distance, we should have to come closer and share ideas.”

The theme of reconciliation and healing, tactics to establish sustainable peace among the local communities, and the concept of the National Dialogue continually came up in during the discussions, with a focus on making the national process truly inclusive, especially towards engaging the voices of women.

0H2A0455A female student speaks during the public peace discussion at Rumbek University of Science and Technology. Photo: ©UNDP

“Women are the most important people for participating in discussions to bring peace,” said Ms. Alweny Jane, an economics student at the university. “The women are the mothers. Every child listens to their mother, we are the rightful people to take peace information to the children at home. If you tell peaceful messages to your children, they will follow in your footsteps.”

Ms. Jane insisted the key to sustainable peace, both within the Greater Lakes States and nationally, is an integrated approach between all organizations and actors in South Sudan.

“…if we leave government to work alone, they cannot manage. If NGOs work alone, they cannot manage. If we, as university students, work on our own, we will not manage,” she said. “But if we all work together, hand-and-hand, then I think we will be able to achieve peace.”

In consultation with Rumbek University of Science and Technology and the University of Juba, UNDP and partners are exploring ways to use peer-reviewed academic papers and evidence based on local communities’ experience with peacebuilding to actively inform policy and decision-making. UNDP’s support for community-level peace discussions continues next during a similar public debate in Bor, later in March. 

The public discussion was supported by UNDP’s Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) project, and was funded by the Government of Sweden. The project aims to support communities to effectively reduce violence, improve community security and strengthen social cohesion.