An interview with Puro Okelo Obob, kickboxing coach at the youth centre in Juba, South Sudan, which has been around since 1972:
“It is true yes, that young people are not doing enough and it is also true that you see some of them playing cards in the streets because they have nothing else to do. You will see them in different bars and in different places where they are not supposed to be. Again that is because they are idle and have nothing to do. Of course young people want to work, of course young people want to be somebody, but the way things are there is nothing for them. The government needs to take time to develop young people and give them opportunities.
In this situation where conflicts are all around South Sudan, it is about time for the government to focus on the youth. Building up young people will prevent more problems in the nation. By leaving them the way they are, it will only create more problems and it will mean the recruitment for those who want to take advantage of young people.
At the centre, we develop them mentally and physically and also spiritually. When you put all of these things together you develop a human being, and in the long-term he/she will become a very active member of society and become a great member of the country.
Building up young people will prevent more problems.
I teach them gymnastics and kickboxing. They could be the next Olympians. Now that South Sudan is a member of the Olympic Committee, in the next 15 to 20 years, you will see these young people competing. They can maybe be short or long distance runners.
My main aim here is kickboxing. I develop kickboxing into professionalism. We are opening a new professional network for kick-boxers and athletics and this is how we embrace them and guide them toward professionalism in the long term. The potential is there for these young people.
In a place like South Sudan people want to see an example. This is why they come here every day because now they see there are people who went to different countries and brought back a few medals. They have champions now with a kickboxing belt, and they want to imitate them.
My hope for them is to see them really working up to their potential and exploring these opportunities, as well as becoming good human beings and finishing school. I also hope that they will follow their dreams. Politicians should not run their lives. Let the young people decide what is their future and how they can catch up with the other countries. This is what they need to do and look into what is most important for them, not the politicians.
I want to see the government of South Sudan playing a greater role by giving the federation and the associations not only the means but the channels for their resources. The youth are the one who will sell the country’s image, the country’s name. This is what government needs, this is what this country needs, to sell its image better. Young people can change this country.”