South Sudanese youth visit Rwanda and take a stand against hate
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
In September 2019, a group of 25 young people travelled from various parts of South Sudan to Kigali to spend time learning about Rwandan history and the process that leads to genocide - as well as its reversal. The exchange visit, hosted by Aegis Trust, involved visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the Prison Fellowship and a Reconciliation Village, where they heard from perpetrators and victims who are now living together.
It was an emotional first few days. “In the first 2 days I was sick and confused, how have people who have killed each other come to live together? Can we do this in South Sudan, where people are divided along tribal lines? ”
After the site visits, the group spent several days at Aegis Trust's Peace School, where, through interactive exercises they explored the process of division and hatred that can lead to genocide. Role plays and exercises enabled the participants to exercise critical thinking, empathy, active listening and strengthen their leadership skills needed to counter identity hatred and build social cohesion.
There was significant media interest in the visit including from Voice of America and local radio programmes. "What is the main thing you will take back? asked radio presenters. For most, they found that change needs to start with oneself: " I should start it with myself. I should start with making changes in myself and then I can start to make changes in the community. "
Many of the group members explained that the concept of "active bystanders" made a big impact. “We realised that if we don’t act and say things are wrong in our communities, we can end up like Rwanda… People from the same community can say it is wrong." Some argued that "South Sudan is not exceptional, we have also experienced the same things, and it is still continuing".
SSYPADO (South Sudanese Youth Peace and Development Organisation), that Rights for Peace is supporting, felt the exchange visit was an great start to the 2-year programme being funded by a DFID Jo Cox Strengthening Grants. "Now, when they go back to their locations and communities, they feel they can act and do something about it. Normally people just take it as normal in society, but the prejudice and mistrust is having a negative impact in South Sudan."
The next step for the group is training on designing impactful initiatives and seed projects that can promote attitude change among young people. The best projects that the group members come up with will be selected by location. These need to engage further groups of youth in activities that promote critical thinking, empathy and trust building across divided communities in a range of locations across South Sudan and in refugee camps in Northern Uganda. Further accounts of their journey will be posted on our website over the next 24 months.