Despite being the world’s newest nation, South Sudan has had very little to celebrate. Since declaring its independence in 2011, South Sudan has seen 2.4 million people be displaced, more than 50,000 have died, and hundreds of thousands more suffer due to rape and torture. With the goal of asserting their dominance, the South Sudanese government have attempted to eradicate various ethnic groups and rebel organizations across the country by using horrific methods, such as starvation, gang rape, and destruction of villages.
While there are those who are using violence to fight against the authoritarian government, one individual is taking a more peaceful approach with a 21st-century twist. Twenty-four-year-old software engineer, Lual Mayen, is embarking on a brave and unique mission to help restore peace in his country through board games and video games. Witnessing the war, murder, and displacement of people firsthand, Mayen also noticed terrible things occurring online. Mayen stated that “social clubs, both online and offline, were turned into sites for social evils and I could see the conflict brewing among various tribes that were crammed together. I knew that these scenarios could turn political and even physical, with people wanting revenge for what was happening to them.” This motivated Mayen into thinking about how he could counteract such destructive activity.
In September 2016, Mayen decided to use his software developing talents to create Junub Games, a South Sudanese community of game developers, artists, designers, games lovers, and coders whose aim is to create games that promote peace building. In the six months of its existence, Junub games has already developed one mobile app game and invented two board games. The mobile app is called Salaam the Arabic for peace, a game in which players must get rid of symbols that are associated with war in order to promote peace.
One of the board games is called Whada, which is an Arabic word referring to unity and it is quite similar to the game of Uno. However, instead of numbers, the cards in Whada have words like Love, Hate, War, and Peace written on them. Mayen explains that “Negative cards like War can be countered with positive words like Peace. Penalties on certain cards have the players pick up more cards. The goal of the game is to get rid of your cards as fast as possible, and the winner of the game is crowned ‘Peacemaker’.” However, Mayen aims to distribute this game throughout refugee camps in Northern Uganda and Protection of Civilian sites within his home country. If that is successful, then Mayen wants to share his peaceful games with those who are in refugee camps across the world, especially Syria, where 12 million people have fled their home and 7.4 million are displaced within their own country.
While chaos and despair continue to dominate South Sudan, not all hope is lost thanks to the peaceful ambitions of a young and innovative software programmer, who carries the strong belief that one day his country will live in peace and harmony.