UNDP brings communities together through dialogue and sports in Upper Nile

May 8, 2024

Malakal Youth Striker, Charles, dribbling the ball in a match with the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) team in Malakal Stadium


Malakal is a primary destination for returnees and refugees arriving in South Sudan fleeing from the Sudan conflict, therefore intensifying the need for dialogue to create a safe environment and promote peaceful co-existence.

In March 2024, Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA) and UNDP South Sudan with support from the Government of Japan conducted a series of community dialogues and engagements in Malakal Town and Protection of Civilian (POC) site facilitated by Peace Committees trained by UNDP as insider mediators. 

The State Minister of Peacebuilding, Hon. Jeremiah Deng who graciously attended and provided oversight during the dialogues was an invaluable asset to the process. 

These dialogues brought communities together while strengthening social cohesion and contributed to reduction of the trust gap between the communities. Furthermore, the involvement of the Peace Committees from Malakal PoC and Malakal Town was essential, because their skills as local mediators, meat that they understood the dynamics of communities in both locations. 

The communities jointly discussed key issues such as youth unity, the returnees of Sudan Conflict, preparations for the upcoming elections and the environmental challenges linked to the upcoming rainy season and its impact on peacebuilding. Community members in Malakal expressed their concern about the youth criminal groups in PoC and discussed how to address the dynamics related to these groups. 

Dialogues bringing communities together


After the dialogues, a football tournament between the youth groups in Malakal Town, including youth returnees and internally displaced, was conducted as part of trust building. As requested by youth, the participating teams also involved humanitarian communities, organized forces, UNMISS and traders’ union. The football competition aimed to strengthen their unity and act as a platform where youth can engage each other in a peaceful way. In this competition, youth from Malakal town and from Malakal PoC joined as one team; Youth of Malakal, which was commendable given the instances in the past where tensions have been witnessed between the youth from the two locations. 

Players celebrating a win for peace during the tournament


The tournament brought thousands of community members to Malakal Stadium to witness the match, which was also attended by the Governor of Upper Nile state, Hon. James Odhok Oyai along with the state ministers during the opening and closing sessions and during the final match. In total, 108 players from 6 teams participated in the tournament and brought around 4,000 spectators to Malakal Stadium including community leaders, government officials, youth and women.

"Through sports, we not only build physical strength but also the foundations of peace, unity, and understanding among communities, transcending boundaries and differences for a shared goal of harmony and reconciliation." – Hon. James Odhok Oyai, The Governor of Upper Nile State.  

One of the youth participants, Charles, also stated: “This match is really great for us, youth of Malakal, where we can unite as a team. It has been long time since we can play together with our brothers in Malakal Town …..”.

Malakal youth playing for peace during the football tournament


Youth of Malakal PoC and Malakal Town united as one team - playing for peace during the football tournament


After the competitive matches, the Governor of Upper Nile State awarded the winning team and the runner-up with a cup and cash awards.

At the dialogues, community members in Malakal PoC and Malakal town also agreed to conduct series of environmental cleaning of the sewages and iron sheets fragments especially near to the transit center and youth center that might pose danger to the people during the rainy season that may be associated with floods.