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Humans · Technology

Video games heal South Sudan from pain of war

April 21st, 2017
in:Humans, Technology
by:Bob Koigi
located in:South Sudan
tags:Junub, South Sudan Civil War, Video games, youth

Beyond the ear splitting bullet sounds and incessant wails of women and children that has been characteristic of the decades- long South Sudan civil war, there is another sound - the sound of activism. A group of innovative youth who have decided to part with guns and are now embracing video games to entice more youth to the other side of war; peace.

Since the war broke out in the world’s youngest country, parties to the conflict have always recruited the youth to the battlefronts with the belief that they are energetic and easily manipulated. This has seen droves of them drop out of school with a promise of a handsome reward once they execute their masters’ commands which include killing, maiming, raping and unleashing an orgy of violence on the South Sudanese populace.

But a group of young people determined to put an end to this have embraced innovative ways of preaching peace. Alier Mabior has been at the front seat of this revolution. Having fled the war at the age of five with his family and finding a safe haven at Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya, Mabior knew no peace. But he swore to one day work towards a peaceful South Sudan.

He would work his way up, getting a scholarship to study a degree in Computer Science at the University of Nairobi. But after completion, not even an offer of a lucrative job with a telecommunications company would make him stay. He wanted to go back to his country, to keep the promise he made. So in 2015 upon returning home, he set out to creating mobile based video games complete with local themes, songs and largely advocating for peace. “Most of the youth in my country are idle, some have never bought the idea of school and that is why they are easy prey for the warlords. I primarily came up with the video games to get them busy while inculcating in them the need for embracing peace and co-existence. I have come up with four games, and the youth have received them so well,” Mabior told Fairplanet.

One of the favourite game among the youth is loi aweer which translates to “emancipate yourself”. The game involves working as a team in hunting the villains from their hideouts and applying diplomatic tactics like a call to surrender to win them over. Once a player succeeds in convincing the antagonists to give up arms and join their cause, the player earns points and proceeds to another more challenging level. “We have structured the games in such a way that for every points the player earns, they can redeem them for small tokens like telephone airtime. It is still in the trial stages but we are overwhelmed by the number of people especially the youth who have taken them up,” said Mabior.

He has also collaborated with movie vendors, small video shops and internet cafés to have them stock the video games. “If you are to ask me, this has been one of the most effective ways of preaching peace and creating platforms for people of South Sudan to discuss war and its impact on their daily lives. I attend gatherings and I hear people talk about how they should approach threats to peace like they have in video games, it is encouraging and heart warming,” added Mabior. He now looks forward to spreading this innovative strategy to countries reeling from the effects of war like Syria and Iraq.

Lual Mayen a software engineer has also been a champion of peace through his localized video games and boards. Working with 20 developers and designers, Lual has designed games like “Salaam”, an Arabic word meaning peace which entails demolishing any symbol of war the player of the game comes across in order to conquer peace. The game includes common South Sudanese songs in the background like One People, One Nation which is a clarion call to the people of the country to unite.

This is one of the games under the Junub games designed by Lual and which are popular especially in social media. Board games include Wahda, a card game with a key message on unity. The cards carry words like “peace”, “hate”, “love” and “war”. Players must counter negative cards like hate with positive ones like love. The ultimate goal of the game is to ensure that players get rid of as many negative cards as possible with the player with many positive cards being declared the peace maker.

“In the digital age, such innovative ways of using video games to bring the youth together are quite effective in dispute resolution and will go a long way in giving the young people who are usually misused by warlords a new approach to conflict and conflict resolution,” said Dr. Boaz Alutsa from the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi who has worked in South Sudan in the field of conflict resolution.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Author
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"I primarily came up with the video games to get young people busy while inculcating in them the need for embracing peace and co-existence." Alien Mabior, The founder of the video game said.
One of the favourite game among the youth is loi aweer which translates to emancipate yourself. The game involves working as a team in hunting the villains from their hideouts and applying diplomatic tactics like a call to surrender to win them over.
In the digital age, using video games is a innovative way to bring the youth together.

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