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Can sport help spark peace in South Sudan?

Estella Turukoyo
Deborah Alison danced in celebration after winning 200 South Sudanese Pounds in a six-kilometre race during a sports event to support peace in the capital Juba.
3.08.2015  |  Juba, South Sudan
Debora Alison after completing the run in Juba, July 11, 2015. (photo: The Niles |  Estella Turukoyo)
Debora Alison after completing the run in Juba, July 11, 2015. (photo: The Niles | Estella Turukoyo)

Even though Deborah Alison is happy about the prize, she said the experience is more than just winning races of this kind. Running is good. It helps you to be focused and disciplined,” she said.

Running is good. It helps you to be focused and disciplined.”
Deborah Alison

Deborah said workout sessions enabled her to meet many others she did not know before. The event’s organisers described the race as a milestone in bringing youths from different tribes of South Sudan together to embrace peaceful coexistence and tolerance.

Most participants said they took part because they want to show their solidarity towards peace in the conflict-riven country. Over 700 people competed in the ‘Peace Marathon’, including the Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan, Takeshi Akamatsu.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Stephen Ladu Onesimo, reiterated Deborah’s words saying that sports such as the ‘Peace Marathon’ could help bring peace to a country that has seen more than 18 months of violent conflict.

The ministry is now working hard to building a peaceful South Sudan through sports activities. If youth are engaged in helpful (sports) activities and develop talents, it discourages youth from involving in bad activities (meaning violence).”

The minister thinks a running copetition such as this, if organised across the country, would help his government to deal with widespread fighting.

The minister said the youth is their target, blaming South Sudanese violence on idle young people who often struggle to find employment.

If every young person gets involved in a sport of their own choice it might help reduce the intensity and frequency of violence, he said.

The UN estimates that people under 30 years old make up over 72 percent of the country’s entire population.

Gemtel, one of the country’s telecommunication providers, helped organise the running competition, which began and ended at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, in Juba on July 11, 2015.

Deborah thinks races such as ‘Peace Marathon’ would help unemployed people to be instruments of peace. If we stay idle, we can take up bad practices such as drinking alcohol,” she said.

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