September 21 was special for local communities in Yambio, Western Equatoria. Not only was it the International Day of Peace, but they received a much needed boost in their own efforts to foster reconciliation and harmony among themselves from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) under the form of a newly constructed peace center.
The cloudy sky of Yambio filled with joyous hoots as members of the Interfaith Council for the Peace Initiative officially received the building of the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
“We have suffered from war and conflict for a long time and our children continue to suffer,” said Alice Charles, a resident of Yambio who attended the opening ceremony. “This center is a precious gift for us because we are committed to ensuring harmony and coexistence between us. If we are to move forward and if our children are to lead better lives than us, then we must work together to build lasting peace.
The peace center includes a conference room, offices and restrooms. It should be a hub where women, men and young people can come together to advance local peace initiatives and resolve differences before they escalate into real conflict.
“We call on the peace actors to come and join us here to bring stability and security to our communities. We can do this by thinking about what we need to do to prevent violence and conflict. Prevention is always the best option when it comes to a possible outbreak of violence, ”said Elenama Jacob, secretary general of the Interfaith Council for the Peace Initiative.
For South Sudan to truly become a thriving democracy, peacebuilding must start at the grassroots, according to Stella Abayomi, civil affairs officer at UNMISS. “We have worked closely with the Interfaith Council to raise awareness, facilitate reconciliation and conflict management workshops. We have seen firsthand how the involvement of the communities themselves engenders ownership and commitment to lasting peace and we hope this center will amplify that feeling, ”she said.
Christopher Murenga, head of the UNMISS field office in Western Equatoria, says he believes the center has the potential to become a beacon for people across the state in their quest for a prosperous life. “This center should be a focal point from which messages of peace and reconciliation radiate across Western Equatoria and South Sudan; where people can come together to discuss and promote the invaluable currency of lasting peace, ”he said.
The Peace Center was built as part of the mission’s Quick Impact Projects (QIP) program which addresses urgent public infrastructure needs through small-scale, low-budget interventions that have a huge impact on the community. community life. The local implementing partner for this particular project was Community for Pair Educators.
The government of the state of Western Equatoria has pledged to support this initiative.
“We are very happy that this is a house built for peace and coexistence and we will fully support it,” said John Bara Yona, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs.