January 26, 2019
Juba, South Sudan
Your Excellency James Wani Igga, Vice President of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan,
Your Excellency Seiji Okada, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of South Sudan,
Honorable Deng Deng Hoc, Minister of General Education and Instruction, representing Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports,
Honorable Cabinet Ministers,
Honorable Rajab Bunduki, State Minister for Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, representing the Governor of Jubek State,
Mr. David Shearer, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in South Sudan,
Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in South Sudan,
The Organizing Committee of the Fourth National Unity Day,
The Athletes and Citizens of South Sudan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to extend my congratulations, on behalf of the Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA, to all of you for organizing the fourth National Unity Day as a national sports event that is dedicated to peace. It is my honor that JICA has been able to work hand in hand with many people in South Sudan to contribute to the first and successive editions of the NUD.
I would like to pay tribute to the government of the Republic of South Sudan, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, other relevant ministries and agencies and sports organizations for their efforts and devotion to NUD4. I am particularly grateful to those who have spent many months preparing for the latest NUD.
I am also grateful to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and contribution from the countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Bangladesh among others, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a group of business entities for being the partners of NUD4. All of them support the NUD initiative as an important peace-building sports endeavor. In this regard, it is my pleasure to note that there has been an increase in the number of organizations and individuals supporting and collaborating with the NUD not only because the NUD has become known widely but also because many people have begun sharing the significant role of the NUD in ensuring peace.
As in the three previous editions, NUD4 is being held under the theme "Sports for Peace and Social Cohesion." I welcome all participating athletes and the audience to NUD4.
Last year, more than 300 athletes participated in NUD3. The event gave them an opportunity to take part in sports competitions, stay together at a temporary accommodation, as well as experience peace and sensitization activities. Indeed, it was an opportunity for each of them to interact with others from various parts of South Sudan and, more importantly, not only to know the differences among them but also to share a common value of respecting one another.
I have learned that one of the NUD3 participants found it safe to leave a UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and now lives peacefully in his ethnic community. This is because he found a place with safety, new and diverse friends, and a place with hope outside his past world.
I would like to emphasize what is more important than anything else in connection with the NUD. On top of making every effort to bring each edition of the NUD to a success, I want all those who are involved in the preparation process and the organizing process to share the factors essential for the development of South Sudan. They are: fairness, the acceptance of diversity and unity. I sincerely look forward to seeing NUD4 facilitate peace and social cohesion further.
I would like not only the athletes but also the audience here to cooperate in peace activities during NUD4. What I want all of you, athletes and members of the audience, to do is very simple yet very meaningful: First and foremost, please pay respects to the participating athletes, officials such as referees and umpires, and those who have come here to enjoy NUD events. This is the very first step toward contributing to peace and social cohesion. I really hope that mutual respect and joint promotion of peace can lead the creation of an environment where young people can nurture their dreams and concentrate on sports training to strive for a goal. The presence of such an environment that inspires people to develop sports skills is seen by the international community as proof of peace and stability.
JICA has been cooperating with the government and the people of South Sudan since the idea about National Unity Day was floated as a festival to celebrate peace and coexistence in the country. JICA engages in a great variety of development cooperation projects all over the world, but the NUD initiative in South Sudan is really unique and noteworthy as it pursues and ensure peace through sports. Therefore, I hope and am very confident that NUD4 will be a successful event and contribute to peace further.
When the inaugural NUD edition was held in January 2016, I sent a congratulatory message, which was read by the JICA Senior Vice-President in charge of Africa. It is my great pleasure to be here today to share the NUD excitement with all of you for the first time. To tell the truth, personally, I have felt so attached to South Sudan, even before your independence in 2011, and since I was ambassador to the United Nations in 2004. Therefore, I had JICA offer financial assistance to help South Sudan send its top athletes to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the very first Olympic participation of South Sudan.
JICA had already engaged in cooperation activities in this area even years prior to the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, as your country is always one of the most prioritized country to JICA. In August last year, JICA Japanese staff re-joined its South Sudan office in Juba after working in Uganda for about two years. Now, my colleagues in South Sudan are actively working for the resumption of full-fledged cooperation plans, such the long-awaited construction of the "Freedom Bridge," the improvement of Juba's water supply system and the adoption of alternative farming systems. I promise that JICA will remain committed to contributing to peace, social cohesion and development of South Sudan.
Now let me tell you a little about the ever-growing exchange of athletes between Japan and Africa. For most of Japanese people, the relationship of sports between Japan and Africa goes back to an Ethiopian runner, Abebe Bikila in Tokyo Olympic game in 1964. Most of young generations here haven't heard his name but he is an Ethiopian runner and the first Sub-Saharan African Gold medalist. More than five decades have passed since then, in Japan today, an increasing number of athletes from Africa are actively competing in football matches and athletic events, among other sports, as members of Japanese high school, university and corporate sports clubs. Truly, many of them have achieved brilliant performances. I hope that National Unity Day will serve as a foundation for you to keep developing your abilities as athletes to the extent that you will be qualified to compete in Olympic Games or in Japan.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like you, all athletes here, to act as "peace ambassadors" when you go back to your respective communities. The role of a "peace ambassador" is to convey messages of peace to your areas and promote a "live-in-harmony-with-peace" environment through sports.
I believe that all other people present here will be also willing to become "peace ambassadors" after NUD4 is over. Everyone in this place — from athletes to members of the audience and those who are involved in organizing National Unity Day — is in a position to play a key role in peace implementation. I sincerely wish all of you will continue to strive for peace and prosperity with everyone in South Sudan and, to that end, assume the role of peace ambassadors following the end of NUD4.
Ensuring peace and stability in South Sudan is imperative for the development of Africa as a whole and that, then, the development of Africa is crucial for sustainable growth of the world. This may sound like an exaggeration. But it is true when we look at South Sudan's distinctive geographic environment — the Republic is surrounded by many countries. This means that the future of your country and that of Africa as a whole hinge upon all of you. As such, NUD4 is an important event, indeed.
Please enjoy football, athletics and volleyball programs and peace and cultural activities as much as possible and strengthen friendship through fair competition throughout NUD4.