IREX – #WhatsYourPeace?
The Remarkable Story of a Minister of Youth in South Sudan
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A native of the fairly young nation of South Sudan, Kueigwong is now the newly-appointed youth minister for the Unity state and a peace and democracy advocate.
Using mediums such as poetry, documentary filmmaking and music, Kueigwong spreads messages of forgiveness and peace to share his story—a background characterized by loss, war, and a continual struggle to improve not only his life, but also the lives of those around him.
After the onset of the Second Sudanese Civil War, Kueigwong was forced to join the Sudan People’s Liberation Army as a child soldier at age seven. After several years, he fled to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya.
“I’m a part of those lost boys of South Sudan,” Kueigwong said of the trauma he and nearly 5,000 other young Sudanese youth endured. “So with that experience behind me, it was part of my motivation to be a Mandela Washington Fellow and [I am] working as a civil servant in my country at the moment.”
It was within these refugee camps that Kueigwong began writing music.
“[My] music was [all about] my past, and what I was describing was all about my story,” he said. “I was not celebrating, [my songs] came from deep in my heart. I feel this is the only way to express [myself], because the more [I] express the more part of my pain goes away.”
Kueigwong’s music can now be found on YouTube and also most notably in the Academy Award-nominated film, Blood Diamond.
Since completing the Fellowship at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., Kueigwong has returned to South Sudan and begun his duties as youth minister for Unity state.
He hopes to help South Sudan’s youth “discover their potential so that they can redirect their own energy in not criticizing the government, but [in] trying to develop their own experience and whatever talent they have.”
Along with working to develop and improve cultural, sports, and political activities for youth, Kueigwong has held several meetings with some of the most influential political leaders in South Sudan in order to discuss how to build the country and engage communities.
He has also participated in town hall meetings with different university youth associations in Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, and Sudan to promote peace implementation throughout South Sudan and across country borders.
Kueigwong also continues to advocate for the strengthening of South Sudan’s constitutional foundation in order to bring about strong, fair governance, calling for a document with “policies that can protect everybody, policies that can [have] every citizen see themselves in that document. With that, we will be able—that constitution will make sure that [there] is equality, there’s equity, in every corner of South Sudan.”
Finally, wanting also to incorporate his musical background into his new work, Kueigwong launched, ‘Talent Search South Sudan,’ a program in which young, upcoming musicians compete for three months while singing songs of peace, unity, love, and history.
“YALI has done great things for me, and I am going to use all the things I learned to do tangible work in my home country,” Kueigwong said.