On a long winding road in Malakal town, lined mostly with county government offices and ministry headquarters, Eliza Wanykow Chan opens her teashop.
It is 6 o’clock in the morning. The town is just coming to life.
In the market just a few meters away, women begin to spread their wares – mostly vegetables and fish. The smell of fresh bread baking in ovens and zalabia (tea scones) frying, merges with that of the tea Eliza has started brewing for her customers who are mostly government officials on their way to work.
“I am here from six o’clock in the morning and I close at six o’clock in the evening. The situation here is calm as you can see. Everyone is doing his or her business with no problem at all. People are moving easily around so everything is OK here,” Eliza says.
The tea culture in South Sudan is a mostly Arabic trend that has been carried on through generations. Across the country, people, most men, will gather around over a cup of tea and discuss current affairs, politics and the general happenings around the community and in the country at large.
The situation in Malakal is unique. lt is the second largest town after the capital, Juba, and can be remembered for its vibrancy and for being a melting pot of everything good about South Sudan – the people, the cultures, and the fresh fish taken directly from the Nile, which crosses majestically through the town.
For years though, Malakal was at the center of the civil war and boldly bore the brunt of its effects. However, things seem to be looking up as many people such as Eliza, are returning to the town to rebuild their lives.
“I appreciate what UNMISS is doing for us such as the training we have received as women, and also the quick impact projects that UNMISS is undertaking. Because of UNMISS, I have learned that I have the ability as a woman to do anything I want to do, including promoting peace. I know now that I have a voice and I can be bold,” she says.
As a way to encourage the process of reintegration, the Upper Nile field office of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has increased its activities in the town especially those covering law and order, human rights, child protection and civil affairs. These components if solidified would ease the way for even more citizens to return to their homes and livelihoods in Malakal.
“It’s encouraging to see life returning to Malakal albeit slowly. The women of Malakal town continuously reiterate to me the need for peace so that their children can go back to school and they can live a life of peace and prosperity,” says the Head of Field Office Hazel Dewet.
In the meantime, Malakal continues to re-awaken, one baker, one fish vendor and one tea maker at a time, with citizens like Eliza making the bold move to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
“I am praying to God that peace will prevail, that people will refrain from violence and that all the residents of Malakal will return and live together freely in peace and harmony. This is my hope.”