To mark International Day of Peace, over 8000 people from across 15 counties in the Eastern Lakes area traveled from far and wide to Yirol town to watch their favorite teams wrestle peacefully. Here is a brief snapshot of the celebrations.

Over 8000 people gathered from across 15 counties in Yirol town of Easter Lakes area to celebrate through a wrestling match.

Yirol, 21 September 2019: The South Sudanese love wrestling and this year’s International Peace Day celebrations stand testament to it. Over 8000 people gathered from across 15 counties in Yirol town of Eastern Lakes area to celebrate through a wrestling match.

The entire town came to a standstill for the event organized around Yirol Freedom Square. Most of the spectators had traveled for up to six hours to get to the venue, with the common goal to celebrate and witness their favorite athletes compete peacefully. Local businesses also stayed closed for the first half of the day, as everyone in the area sang and danced their hearts out in anticipation for the tournament. The atmosphere was filled with energy, joy, and togetherness. Staying true to the spirit of keeping peace within their communities.

The wrestling match was amongst teams from two counties - Ger and Abang county respectively- consisting of five matches between 10 wrestlers. Every match was action-packed and lasted up to three minutes each. The first wrestler to force their opponent onto the ground was declared the winner. If neither were able to force the opponent to the ground, within the time limit, the particular match was declared a draw.

The most anticipated match was the opening one of the day, between local favorites Khot of Geer county and Mabol of Abang county. Within the first minute of the match, Khot defeated Mabol, resulting in a mix of emotions from the crowd ranging from celebration and awe to shock. Though the overall winner of the tournament was Geer county winning by three matches.

Irrespective of winning or losing, the spectators and athletes were there to celebrate the values of mutual respect, inclusion, and equality. The Governor of Eastern Lakes State presided over the celebration, marking the day with messages of peace. “We want to keep the peace so that the people of Eastern Lake State can grow, develop and prosper. There is so much untapped potential that we are yet to unlock,” said Hon Mangar Buong Aluenge, Governor of Eastern Lakes State at the event.

Using a sport like wrestling in South Sudan can act as a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance, and justice. Supporting this, Amalia A. Bol, Representative of Transitional National Legislative Assembly, said, “I am happy to see you all here today. We need to keep the peace, it is only possible if we come together like today. It is our collective responsibility to build South Sudan.”

Bringing the 15 counties and various communities in the area together is important to ensuring sustainable peace, which has seen significant peace-building and economic challenges since the country's independence in 2011. “Today is the day to remind us that we should put aside our differences and contribute to building the culture of peace,” said Hon. Chuol Rambang Luoth, Chair of the Peace Commission during the launch of the event.

This celebration was organized by the Government of Eastern Lakes State, in partnership with UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project. The project aims to contribute to the reduction and mitigation of community-level conflict and insecurity by addressing key drivers of conflict. On UNDP’s commitment towards building peace in South Sudan, Elliman Jagne, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP South Sudan said, “We support the commitment of the people of South Sudan to continue building and keeping the peace. I urge you all to join the process in ensuring the peace agreement is implemented successfully.”

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