Intercultural dialogues – Building a Shared South Sudan Identity

Cultures are like underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments and ideas of self and the other.” ~ UNESCO (2018). Peace and Reconciliation: How Culture Makes the Difference by UNESCO – April 2013; High-level Discussion.

The intercultural dialogue was a project activity of Young-adult Empowerment Initiative in partnership with Network of South Sudanese Civil Society organizations in Uganda and supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. It was implemented in Bidi Bidi Settlement in Uganda, one of presumably the largest refugee settlement in Africa host about 1 million refugees majority of whom are South Sudanese. The project was implemented in the first week of May 2019.

Focus of the dialogue: The focus of the project was to bring different South Sudanese communities together. The communities targeted among others include: Acholi of South Sudan, Azande, Bari of South Sudan, Dinka, Nuer, Murle, Shilluk, Kakwa of South Sudan and South Sudanese politicians both from the oppositions and the government side. These communities were accorded chances to perform their cultures and after the performance explain to the audience how their cultures have contributed towards peaceful co-existence in their localities and how they should use their local understanding to disseminate and promote everlasting peace in South Sudan. Thus, the event was an opportunity for the dissemination of the R-ARCSS, 2018.

Three (3) activities were conducted which include; a) workshop to disseminate the contents of ARCSS (Revitalized Agreement) which targeted refugee leaders and was attended by 30 participants which include traditional leaders, women representatives, faith based groups, youth and members of the host communities. b) The second activity being intercultural public panel of discussion on the importance of embracing cultural diversity and the role of cultural institutions in peaceful co-existence of the South Sudanese with 90 audience in attendance and c) then intercultural performances among different cultural groups from South Sudan. John Lasu, a cluster leader strongly supported the idea of using community leaders to spearhead peace through Inter-Cultural Dialogue and Cultural Performance and believes that giving the community the chance to participate in identifying gaps can be done to help the community leaders who are close to everyday happenings. Majority of participants were women and youth.

Challenges and recommendations: We had learned that, for our field coordinator to reach all the 14 villages and 4 clusters of zone one , we either need to have a motor bike or hire one for time period when it comes to mobilize for the project. Our project was faced by the challenge of bureaucratic process of clearing with authority to allow us implement the project, constrained budget and cultural barriers.

We recommend more activities to be carried out in the future especially in areas of peacebuilding and women empowerment and intercultural dialogues among the South Sudanese refugee communities in Bidi Bidi settlement, Uganda. We profoundly thanks Konrad and Network of South Sudanese Civil Society Organization in Uganda for the support.

Compiled by: Yanga Richard, YEI Bidi Bidi Field Coordinator