Exploring opportunities for interventions aimed at harnessing the pro-peace potential of South Sudanese youth
Youth have been playing an important role in the growth of the society in South Sudan and have been engaged in building the foundations of democratic and peaceful society, including playing a critical role in the fight for independence.
However, according to Christopher Mark Oringa of the University of Juba, the youth are typically considered a problem to peace and are therefore left out or manipulated in the decision-making processes.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion “Peace in South Sudan: Utopia or a worthwhile dream: An open conversation between concerned actors,” Oringa said this was an unfair description as the youth were very passionate about their country and stood up for their beliefs.
“Youth are generally considered to be victims, especially during conflict situations,” he said. “This affects the youth during an important period of physical, mental and social maturation.”
Oringa said this was an area that had been ignored by civil society organisations (CSOs) in their interventions in South Sudan. He said the psychological health of youth had to be addressed in any programmatic work done in the country.
Also, major government programmes excluded the youth in their conception and implementation. This exclusion also needs to be addressed by CSOs.
He said sexual reproductive health is a major issue as girls rely on older women whose knowledge is outdated, as they do not trust government health messages as the government has excluded the youth in many programmes.
Oringa said national unity was a major concern as ethnic, religious and political diversities continued to define the political and socio-economic structure of the country. The establishment of youth organizations after independence aimed at uniting the youth but these organisations existed in an environment that favoured divisionism.
“South Sudanese youth identify with ethnic groups, areas of origin and religious affiliations,” he said.
CSOs should therefore focus on youth issues and conduct awareness-raising programmes on youth grievances through research and evidence-based targeted advocacy. A key aim should be to influence policy for the benefit of young people. They should also carry out outreach programmes particularly to target deprived youths. Such programmes will address capacity building, skills training, the formation of associations and access to credit.