A group of Juba residents this week tried a new approach to peace in South Sudan where a deadly conflict has forced more than a million people from their homes and killed thousands. They came together to play a little football.
“If you put people together through sports, you can have harmony and peace in an area,” said Richard Matimbo, one of the organizers of the Corporate League. The new football league hopes to become a regular fixture in troubled Juba, fostering friendship, co-existence, and much-needed peace through friendly football matches between different company teams.
Fifteen teams have taken part in matches that kicked off the league, and 15 more companies have signed up to join the peace-through-sports effort.
“For the last couple of months, there has been war here," said Matimbo, who is the human resources manager at Victorious Health Clinic. "We are trying to see how we can get guys back to sports, so they forget about the trauma they had and they get together through sports,” he said.
If you have many friends, you become a peacemaker, in a way.
Moses Eresto, marketing manager of Cooperative Bank, said the league is a good way to promote peace by making new friends on the field.
"I have met so many people that I would not have met if it was not because of Corporate League," Eresto told VOA. "If you have many friends, you become a peacemaker, in a way,” he said.
Gabriel Daniel, a technician with South Sudan Television, said he hopes the idea of sports for peace will extend beyond Juba.
"We know how is South Sudan now," he said. "If people come together and they know
each other -- that is the importance of sport. Sports can promote peace between different people here in South Sudan," he said.
Matimbo said there are also plans afoot to expand the league to include volleyball, swimming and billiards, to bring together an even greater number of people seeking peace.