Countering Identity Violence
Find out about our current community-led projects below
Adjumani COVID Response #StaySafeStayUnited
Awareness campaigns in refugee camps in Uganda
As a result of years of civil war in South Sudan, 2.2 million South Sudanese people live in refugee camps in bordering countries, including Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The Adjumani district in northern Uganda hosts over 200,000 refugees.
Inhabitants of Adjumani district camps are faced with COVID-19 whilst having limited access to health facilities and experiencing shortages of food relief. It is also extremely difficult to implement social distancing in overcrowded conditions. Inter-ethnic divisions and tensions between refugees and the host community have become enflamed as COVID-related hate and blame has accompanied the spread of the virus.
Due to limited access to reliable information, misinformation on social media and language barriers, camps in Adjumani are struggling with the effects of inaccurate information. Rumours include the belief that COVID-19 does not exist.
To combat misinformation about the virus and to spread messages of peace, Rights for Peace is supporting Youth Action Network Organisation (YANO), run by South Sudanese residents of Adjumani camp, to carry out an awareness campaign for 5 camps in the district. Using the radio, public speaking and visual aids like posters and leaflets (translated into local languages), YANO has so far witnessed a reduction in social gatherings at churches, mosques and the marketplace during their ongoing campaign.
Read more about this campaign here.
Youth Leadership: Countering Identity Violence in South Sudan
Patterns of mass atrocity show that identity-based hate crime is a key precursor to genocide. Due to ongoing ethnic conflict, South Sudan is currently a country of ‘serious concern’ of mass atrocities. Addressing divisions can help to prevent further escalation.
The South Sudan Youth Peace and Development Organisation (SSYPADO) engages youth in interethnic dialogue and peace-building. Rights for Peace is supporting SSYPADO in a DFID-funded project that is training and funding youth leaders to counter ethnic division.
In September 2019, a group of 25 youth leaders from different ethnic groups living across South Sudan travelled to Rwanda for an exchange visit to learn about the genocide, reconciliation and peacebuilding. In October they participated in a training course in Juba, engaging in interactive exercises to explore identity, community divisions, and entry-points into overcoming conflict. The youth leaders also explored project design and measuring impact before receiving seed funding for their own initiatives.
Many of the young leaders grew up during the independence wars and still live in displacement camps. Although the risk of mass atrocities has reduced, they identified prejudice and unresolved land disputes as fueling ongoing divisions today. Gender-based violence was also highlighted as a significant issue, also fueled on prejudice and stereotyping. The youth-led initiatives in 6 locations are designed to challenge prejudices and misinformation, promoting dialogue and understanding. For further updates read our blog post on the project here.
“As an individual we cannot just be bystanders, we should be active.”
- Peter Pitia Juilano, SSYPADO
Genocide is not an isolated event, but an end-product of a progression of stages. A significant early step is often the dissemination of hate speech towards a targeted group. Early intervention facilitates prevention.
In South Sudan, the average age is 19. Engaging young people is crucial. That’s why we have partnered with the Writers’ Writing Fellowship (a youth-led writing circle) to produce a picture book challenging hate speech. The story will be selected from a writing competition open to young people in South Sudan aged 14-35. The project has delivered workshops on hate speech to youth groups and will continue with further workshops with South Sudanese youth on using storytelling to counter identity-based hate and violence in South Sudan. The competition will showcase stories that confront individual and collective prejudices and promote critical thinking, empathy and the celebration of diversity. Once published and disseminated the winning book will act as both a literacy tool and a model for being an active bystander.
Find out more about this project here.
Rights for Peace primarily aims to research preventative human rights approaches to mass-atrocity crimes in fragile states. This includes considering the contributions of international frameworks, state actors and civil society organisations in combating mass-atrocity crimes. Whilst responses to mass-atrocities are often overwhelmingly reactive, our work is to explore proactive and preventative approaches.
Our latest study, ‘Hate Speech and Incitement of Violence: Bridging the International and the Domestic’, was produced with the International Human Rights Clinic at SOAS University of London. This is a comparative study of the implementation of international, regional and domestic frameworks concerning hate speech and incitement of violence in Colombia, India, Kenya, Rwanda and the UK. This research explores cross-cutting issues in addressing and implementing provisions on hate speech and makes proposals about legislation and engaging with stakeholders.
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