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May 30, 2018

The National Unity Day gave youths confidence to leave displacement sites to resume a normal life in Juba

PhotoBentiu football players (in football jerseys) shared their experience of the NUD with the officials from the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports, the State Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth & Sport and JICA.

As the insecurity continues, 1.8 million people are reportedly displaced across South Sudan as of May 2018. In the capital Juba, there remain a few Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites where displaced people concentrate, living apart from a local community. They arrived in these sites to take refuge from violence.

In January – February 2018, the government-led sports for peace programme (The National Unity Day (NUD)), offered an opportunity for youths from these sites to play sports, representing their area of origin. Since then, it was reported that some of the players left the IDP sites and found a place to stay in the local community in Juba city, to resume a normal life.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and its partner JICA met with five members of Bentiu football team, who represented the former Unity State, to hear their stories.

Kur Gatyei, 19, striker


I used to live in the Mangateen IDP site in Juba. After the NUD, I left the site and stay in my father's house in a neighbourhood in Juba. Before joining the NUD, I thought Juba was insecure. However, during the NUD, I saw people are living a normal life. I felt Juba is safe enough, after having stayed with players from other states during the NUD. This made me decide to leave the IDP site.

I made friends during the NUD. I talk to them on the phone and meet with them in Juba. NUD allowed me to meet with many people.

I wish the NUD will continue every year so that people are given opportunity to meet people outside the IDP sites. That would encourage them to leave the sites and return to a normal life.

Buay Steven, 19, striker


I used to stay in Bweyale Refugee Camp in Uganda. Then, I came to Juba and was staying in the PoC3 (*an IDP site established in the UN compound).

After the NUD, I was registered to play for Al Etihad Club in division 2. This made me decide to leave the PoC. I now live in a community in Juba.

When I arrived at the PoC from Uganda, I was told I would be arrested if I left the PoC. However, during the NUD, nothing was bad. So I feel it's safe to stay in Juba. Now I play with different people in the club without any problem nor fear.

I want to encourage the people in the PoC to come out. I have been mobilizing youths in the PoC to come and play in town. The elders now agreed to allow the youth to leave the POC.

We organised one football match between the PoC and the local community. This helped the two communities interact.

I request that the duration of the NUD be extended to 30 days so that we make more friends. I call South Sudanese to forgive each other and embrace peace.

Liep Parjiek, 17, midfielder


I live in PoC3 until now. After the NUD, I wanted to stay in town, but we do not have a place to stay in town. I now see the situation in town is not as bad as what people in the PoC tell us.

I made friends from all over the country. I tell the youth in the PoC that during the NUD we were welcomed and people were friendly. Now, I come to town to play for the Al Nil Club in division 2. We play with different people.

In the PoC I share my experience outside the PoC with my neighbours. I encourage the youth to come out of the PoC during the day time and go back in the evening so that they can feel the peace in Juba. I feel the NUD has brought people together and made us share experience and ideas with different people.

Luk Meat Gatkouth, 18, midfielder


I was staying in the PoC3 before the NUD. Now I stay in a neighoubhood in town. I currently study in Upper Nile University.

I left the PoC because I feel there is peace in Juba. Before the NUD, I did not know people from other states. Now I have made friends from all over South Sudan. I used to fear leaving the PoC, especially seeing soldiers. However, when we came for the NUD we stayed with the National Security Officers in the accommodation and the sport venue, and the soldiers were friendly.

I want to tell the people in the POC to come out. I also request that the NUD should continue, as it enables building friendship among South Sudanese.

Taban Johnson, 19, defender


After the 2013 crisis, I went to Kenya. I returned to Juba in 2016. Due to the clashes in July 2016, I went to the PoC for safety. During the NUD, I was requested to get out of the PoC and play football, which I thought was risky, since we had been told that we would be killed if we left the PoC. However, during the NUD, I gained confidence that it's safe to stay outside the PoC. Now, I live in a neibhourhood in Juba and go to school.

NUD helped me remove the fear I had about safety in town. I told my parents, neighbours and teammates in the PoC to come and see and stay in town. I have an impression that some people including those who did not participate in the NUD are returning to town, after having heard of the experience of the NUD participants.

The stories tell us that many in the displacement sites continue to have fears for their safety because of who they are, and that their distrust of the outside world remains unhealed. It is a great encouragement for us, who believe in sports as a catalyst for reconciliation, to hear that the NUD experience helped some regain trust in others, gave them the courage to rebuild a relationship with the society surrounding them, and a hope for their future. Meeting and knowing ‘the others' is the first step for building a relationship. The NUD has offered just that, in a way that touched the heart of the youth. Moreover, we are very pleased to hear the brilliant news that some have now gained a new career in sport. We wish the best for the youth, the future of South Sudan.


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