July 3, 2019 – The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) is proud to announce that – in late May – the third annual Whitaker Peace Cup, our most popular event in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, successfully brought together 60 teams from within and around the settlement to engage in a peaceful, two and a half month football competition, fostering closer ties between community members there.
The Whitaker Peace Cup at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement is a key aspect of our Peace Through Sports program, which aims to promote peace and reconciliation between different tribes and ethnic groups in and around the settlement by mobilizing football as a universally-respected vehicle that harnesses potential, fosters hope, and demands a respect for rules and regulations. The program actively combines sports and peacebuilding: for example, by tying together practice sessions and training workshops or matches with community dialogues or other cultural events. Additionally, events like the Whitaker Peace Cup provide welcome respite for settlement residents from the stresses of refugee life. Not only does it lower tensions among them; it also helps promote peace-building values, behaviors, and attitudes as well.
This third annual Whitaker Peace Cup was launched by Forest Whitaker himself on March 15 during his visit to the settlement with the Western Union Foundation delegation. Among the 60 teams that competed in the tournament, 30 were from the settlement and 30 from the surrounding host communities involving 1,200 players. The teams competed in six different categories: youths under 12, 14, 16, 19, and senior teams. Twelve WPDI-sponsored teams also completed. Over two and a half months, more than 400 games were played with WPDI teams winning in the youths under 19 and senior categories. In an overall sense, the tournament was a widespread success in bringing together the entire community.
James, a youth living at the settlement, told us during the tournament that “I used to not like playing football with other tribes such as the Acholi, Nuer, and Zande. I thought that they were not good people. During the tournament, a member of the Acholi tribe played on my team, and now we are friends. I now understand that everyone is equal.” Marko, a refugee from South Sudan, found her participation in the tournament to be empowering, noting that it “gave me a platform to explore my skills and talents! I now consider myself a peace activist and am ready to embrace reconciliation and mediation work in my community.”
At the close of the tournament, the camp’s commandant commended WPDI and explained the tournament’s wider impact, vindicating our vision for peace and community dialogue: “I have seen conflicting tribes brought together and play on unified football teams. They have played together without violence – a remarkable feat!”