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Optimism: Sudanese Youth Advocate James Labadia Talks to NP

Date: October 1, 2010

What does the concept of peace mean to you? 

Peace is the state of being free from war, or conflict. To be free means you have peace. To a South Sudanese, peace means the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the Peoples’ Liberation Movement. 

What do you think about NP living and working in Mundri? 

optimism1It’s very great. NP gives us more knowledge of peace. NP intervenes in conflicts and helps resolve them. A few months ago, we had a conflict between the Moro and the Mundari. Through conversation facilitated by NP, peace came. If not for NP, we would have fought. People would have lost their lives. Here we use the bow and arrow automatically. 

After the April election, there was conflict between the youth and the elders of the community. NP created a bridge between us. They brought us together to talk and stopped the hatred. 

As a Southern Sudanese, I grew up in war. Everything was war. My brain is traumatized. Through help from NP, my community and I can think about how to do things differently. NP is helping us build our own capacity to use nonviolent means to resolve conflict. For the Mundri Active Youth Association (MAYA), having NP for a partner is a great. Together, we are helping the youth of the Greater Mundri region — who were destroyed through war — to think about life in a new way. NP builds us up. With help from NP, we wrote a script and are staging dramas on nonviolence and conflict resolution. I am now becoming famous in my own land for this work. I was not known before because I am small. NP is helping me with this. 


Through NP, MAYA is beginning to be known outside Mundri. Initially, we had a peacebuilding program, but we didn’t have the logistics necessary to carry out our work. NP has introduced us statewide. We are now taking part in a youth tournament in Yambio. It is fantastic that NP has linked us to groups and activities throughout the state. We are beginning to resolve conflicts and to heal. 

NP has lots of resourceful people who give us useful advice that helps us write our proposals and make friends from outside. NP gives us knowledge and support. We are still small, but through NP we are learning and growing. If not for NP, I don’t know whether we could do the work we do.

What is the most important work that NP can do in your community? 

Peacekeeping. All of us are traumatized. We have trauma in our minds because of the two-decades-long war. If someone stays in war, everything they think is war. NP’s capacity building helps communities learn to respond nonviolently to conflict. Talking peace is good. But you need to build capacity to maintain it. NP will leave. So it’s important that peacekeepers educate people here. Then we can continue to teach about how to resolve conflict nonviolently once they are gone. 

In your opinion, what is the priority for youth in Mundri? 

At MAYA, we encourage youth to read because the war left many unable to. We encourage girls and boys to go to school for their futures. Some have no interest in going back to school. These need to learn a livelihood in business or agriculture so they can be and stay happy in a peaceful life. We need to be there for those who are handicapped and can’t help themselves. We are all one big community. This is not the world of our grandfathers; the world is modernizing, and we need to change with it. 

Youth here also need civic education. People don’t know about their rights. There are big problems with gender here. People beat their wives and don’t know that it’s bad. We want human rights and democracy, but people don’t know what democracy is. Everybody in the community needs to understand they can join the community and take action for peace.

Why do you work for MAYA? 

My goal is to strengthen and empower our community. We are still civilizing ourselves. If I were to go to work somewhere else, how would my people become civilized? Working for MAYA, I am patriotic. 

We want to establish ourselves for ourselves. We want to create opportunities for everyone to join in. The spirit of making everyone involved in this work is what motivates me. I may move on eventually, but for the moment, I have a goal. We can’t depend on the government for work. So we have to have a spirit of creativity for ourselves. 

I also work at MAYA because of the referendum. During the election, I saw that in the rural bomas [villages], people didn’t even know how to hold a pen to make their mark. I want to teach them how to vote, how to engage in public life. 


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