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Traditional events to build peace among Unity state’s youth


November 14, 2013 (BENTIU) - Officials in South Sudan’s Unity state have declared that cultural events will be held every Sunday in Bentiu in an attempt to encourage youth from different ethnic groups to interact through demonstrating their different styles of traditional dance.

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Nuer dancers from Unity state during Sunday’s declarion of cultural activities in Bentiu Independent Stadium 10 November 2013 (ST)

Hundreds of youth group fill up the Bentiu stadium last Sunday to show off their dancing skills and demonstrate other aspects of their cultures to allow young people to relate and learn their cultural heritage.

Peter Gatkuoth Yam, a dancer, says he believes that making Unity state’s youth to interact through cultural expression will foster togetherness.

"We have seen it has creating a lot friendship among us because as youths, it is really very interesting and help also eliminating such kind of hatred. When people come together and unite and play together it will also create relationship between youths”, Yam said.

Gai Dang Kulang, the director general of Unity state’s ministry of culture youth and sport said the decision to name Sunday as a day of traditional culture was taken by local community and authorities in order that those who were forced to leave South Sudan during the two-decade civil war could become reacquainted with their cultural roots.

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Nuer traditional cultural dancers on Sunday at Bentiu Indepedent stadium in Unity state. 10 November 2013 (ST)

The conflict displaced four million people. Many South Sudanese fled to north Sudan, while others became refugees in neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda. Some made it further afield to Europe, Australia and North America.

People were returning to South Sudan with a variety of cultural influences, Kulang said, making it essential "to engage our people to know their original culture".

Garang Dut Garang, a young man from Unity state, agreed that the contact the youth will have through the traditional dance will help boost unity among young people.

"Off course it will promote the unity because it is now making us knowing that we are one people and we are from one mother and one father and so we are really encouraging this cultural dances to be going ahead", Garang told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

Solomon Ayiko, an international UN volunteer from Canada who is working on recovery, reintegration and peace building, said that culture can be a key instrument in improving community relations.

"Culture is one of the most powerful means to transform society in Unity state. Culture can be the best instrument that government and the Unity state community can use to confront security issues and to enhance the struggle toward peace and development", added Ayiko.

Ayiko believes that if the cultural exchanges were extended to youth from neighbouring states it would reduce cattle raiding, which has been a major issue in the relations between communities especially along the axis of Unity, Warrap and Lakes states.

"Cultural activities the music and dance and drama, if it is enhanced, if it is supported, it can confront one of the major root causes of insecurity caused by cattle raiding" he said.

Director Kulang says that the government has decided to build peace by bringing people together through youth activities and cultural shows.

“In our mandate we have [a] slogan that says ’peace, unity and stability of the people of Unity state’ and this must be achieved through cultural activities, youth activities and sport activities", he said.

"Now you see many people are in the stadium seeing or watching the cultural activities it is peace by itself”, said Kulang.

Many people in Bentiu have welcome the decision by the state government to declare Sunday a day for cultural and youth activities.

In a recent discussion on state-owned Bentiu FM the majority of callers expressed happiness that the government was considering using such events to create a more peaceful environment.


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