As a musician, 30-year-old Manaseh Mathiang often uses his craft to bring people together for positive reasons, perhaps to dance and sing along to his music.
But Mathiang launched a new social media initiative for a more sobering reason: he has lost several family members during the conflict in South Sudan, and says his #wavesouthsudan project is a call to his fellow countrymen and women to move beyond the past and unite for the common good.
"Everybody in South Sudan, no matter what tribe, no matter what political affiliation... they still love the flag," Mathiang told South Sudan in Focus.
"If you love South Sudan, you will love the flag and you will be proud of it. So that is why we came up with the Wave South Sudan campaign,” he said.
The campaign asks that people take a picture of themselves, waving the South Sudanese flag; post it on facebook with the hashtag #waveSouthSudan; add reasons why they are proud of South Sudan; and encourage a friend to do the same.
Mathiang said mainly teenagers and young adults have posted photos with the #wavesouthsudan hashtag on their Facebook walls and Twitter pages.
— Aisha Jore Ali (@joreali) November 5, 2014
One of the campaign’s early supporters is 23-year-old Riya William, a civic education officer with the Western Equatoria-based NGO Mundri Relief and Development Association.
William, whose social media persona is Bianc Shan Santa, believes deep-rooted tribalism is at the heart of South Sudan’s trauma. She hopes Mathiang’s initiative will make a change.
“He is promoting peace and he is not from my tribe," she said."I would like to associate with people who are not from my tribe to show that we want to work together, not as Muru, Dinka, Nuer or whatever. I joined because I want to see peace... without peace, we cannot develop.”
Mathiang said the campaign has helped him cope with his own grief and loss. It also confronts what he thinks is a disturbing social media phenomenon.
"Since the beginning of this conflict, it has been heart-breaking to see how so many South Sudanese, especially those in the diaspora, are using social media for negative reasons - to add more fire to the conflict that we have,” he said.
Luang Stephen Choul, 26, said he hopes Mathiang’s initiative will spawn other social media campaigns with positive messages.
"Let us preach peace on social media," he said. "Post things that concern peace, not violence. Let us not spread any rumors to create tensions between us.”
Even though the warring sides in the conflict are expected to form a transitional government, which is widely seen as a key step towards ending nearly 11 months of fighting, Mathiang said there is only one way to reach a lasting solution.
"The most important peace that we need in South Sudan is peace amongst ourselves as citizens," he said.
"Politicians come, politicians go, let us not dwell so much on them but on uniting ourselves,” he said.
Mathiang has released a song -- called "Wave South Sudan" -- to boost the online peace campaign.
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