Wrestling is one of the traditional sports of South Sudan; one that we believe can be used to heal tension and build harmony among participants and fans. In 2010, a group of South Sudanese formed the Southern Sudan Wrestling Entertainment (SSWE), a South Sudanese based non-profit that aims to promote and modernize the game of wrestling into a conventional sport. SSWE held tournaments in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 and now 2016. These tournaments were successfully received and they helped reduced tensions that existed at the time among the communities involved. The organization was initially funded entirely by contributions from the members, but in the last couple of tournaments donors supported the tournament. The 2016 tournament was primarily funded by USAID.
SSWE seek to nurture the talent of South Sudanese youth and use it to enhance national reconciliation and harmony while reducing idleness in the community by putting their physical strength to use. The game of wrestling is endowed with cultural riches and at a crucial moment in the nation’s history, the time is right for the people of South Sudan to look inward and build on things that unite them rather than the differences that exist among them. Tribes in Jonglei, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria and Central Equatoria states practice wrestling; wrestling can be a building block towards a common national identity.
The participants in the game of wrestling are mostly young people. Since independence, unemployment and idleness among the youth has been a particular concern that exacerbates the culture of violence. The lack of engagement among the youth has also been blamed for the level of insecurity that exists in the country. The SSWE seeks to engage the young people in wrestling as a means of encouraging reconciliation, and providing income to the participants and entertainment for the general public. Not only would Southern Sudanese be aware of their own traditional sports, but with this awareness comes confidence and pride in their heritage. The SSWE seeks to create a forum in which South Sudanese can enjoy this traditional sport and grow together as a nation.
Peter Biar Ajak is the Founder and the CEO of South Sudan Wrestling Entertainment, a non profit that uses the indigenous sport of wrestling to promote peace among South Sudan’s tribes. He is also the Country Co-Director for the International Growth Centre in South Sudan and the Founder of the Juba-based Center for Strategic Analyses and Research (C-SAR). Peter was previously the World Bank In-Country Economist in South Sudan, and also previously, the Coordinator of Policy and Strategy in the Office of the Minister of National Security in the Office of the President, where he served, among other things, as the Secretary and the Spokesman for the committees that drafted South Sudan’s White Paper on Intelligence & National Security, the National Security Act, and the National Security Policy and Strategy. Peter is currently a member of the SPLM Economic Taskforce, the ruling party’s highest economic policymaking body. His op-eds and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, BBC, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, and CNN among other sources. Peter is a 2015 Millennium Fellow at the Atlantic Council and a 2016 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow at the African Leadership Institute. A former “lost boy” of Sudan, Peter holds a BA in Economics from LaSalle University, an MPA/ID from Harvard University, and he is pursuing a PhD in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge.
South Sudan Wrestling Entertainment (SSWE) is a private non-profit that uses the traditional sport of wrestling to promote peace and reconciliation among the tribes of South Sudan. It was co-founded in 2010 by a group of South Sudaneseentrepreneurs under the leadership of its current CEO Peter Biar Ajak. Aside from peace building, the organization also promotes youth employment. In the lead-up to the 2011 referendum on the independence of Southern Sudan, the region was facing a lot of tensions. These tensions were largely caused by inter tribal fighting related to cattle rustling, abduction of women and children and political rebellions. The SSWE, through the sport of inter-tribal wrestling, sought to build an enduring network of rural youth that is capable of settling local disputes.
Since its first tournament, these networks have grown substantially and have helped reduced inter-tribal conflicts and have led to resolutions of conflicts where they occurred. After successfully hosting its first tournament in 2010, the SSWE went on to hold more tournaments in 2011, 2012, and 2013. These tournaments were successfully received and have reinforced the initial networks created.
The people of South Sudan practice various traditional sports. The sport of traditional wrestling is widely practiced among many communities in South Sudan. Wrestling is a traditional sport that reduces tension and builds harmony among people that practice it.SSWE nurtures the talent of Southern Sudanese youth and usesthis talent to enhance national reconciliation and harmony whilereducing idleness in the community.The game of wrestling is endowed with cultural riches that demonstrate the glory and the essence of the Southern Sudanese people. In the difficulties the country has faced since independence, the SSWE, through wrestling, has allowed the people of South Sudan to look deeply inward and build on things that unite them rather than the differences that exist among them.
Tribes in Jonglei, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Nuba Mountains have so far participated in various tournaments. The game of wrestling is helping build a sense of common national identity in a country deeply divided by incessant conflicts. The founding members initially entirely funded the organization for the first three years of its existence. Today, SSWE partners with Fetzer Institute, the World Wrestling Roots, and the USA/ID.