Peace appeal from South Sudanese Australians

Members of the South Sudanese Australian community say Australia should try to play a role in ending violence in South Sudan.

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Members of the South Sudanese Australian community say Australia should try to play a role in ending violence in South Sudan.

At a meeting in Melbourne, they have expressed appreciation for the $3 million in emergency assistance recently announced by the federal government for victims of unrest.

But, as Sacha Payne reports, they want the government to go further.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

The community members came together to discuss the conflict in South Sudan between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, and rebels who support former vice-President Riek Machar.

Community advocate and peace campaigner David Nyuol Vincent says Australia played an important role accepting refugees for resettlement during the long conflict that ended in South Sudan's indepence in 2011.

He says now it's time for Australia to try to end the conflict that began in South Sudan's capital, Juba, in December, and quickly spread across the country.

"We are asking for the recognition of situation in South Sudan and then publicly oppose the current conflict. We also call for end of to arm conflict and support for constructive dialogue. We would feel that as our new country, you would really plea or ask for the Government to say something."

The South Sudanese-Australians at the Melbourne meeting said they were affected by the ongoing conflict back in South Sudan in many ways.

That includes the loss of relatives killed in the fighting, and the financial costs of helping other relatives to flee from the violence as refugees to neighbouring countries.

A president of Bor Youth Association in Australia, Madol Chiec Anyang, agreed the community was looking to the Australian government to help.

"We got our parents back home. Some of us got relatives and friends, and all the citizens of South Sudan. The reasons why we came here is again had happened and the name of it is war. You as the government of Australia support peace, support the independent government of South Sudan (Independence of South Sudan), and now we got a nation."

Present at the Melbourne meeting was the local member of federal parliament - the Greens party's Adam Bandt.

David Nyuol Vincent says the South Sudanese community is counting on him to raise their concerns in parliament.

"There are a lot of people who are still in the displaced camps all around the country being estimated over a million people and that is just a staggering figure that pulls your breath away when you hear of that. And we see the suffering in the camp every day. We hope that you the Green party you could help us to lobby the government to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those at most risk."

Adam Bandt was quick to respond, promising to raise the community's concerns.

And he indicated he could see a role for Australia as a peace broker in South Sudan.

"In Parliament, I and the Greens will be pushing for the Australian Government to take stronger role in bringing about peace in South Sudan. I don't think the Australian government's role is to take sides. The Australian role should be to try and broker a lasting peace. And I think the Australian government is in a good position to do that."

According to various agencies working in South Sudan, the conflict has taken on an ethnic dimension between the two larger tribes of Dinka and the Nuer.

Melbourne University law student Nyandol Nyuon was among those raising this as a particular concern at the Melbourne meeting.

"Just go on Facebook as see the way we insult each other. We call them rebel, we call them Dinka, we call them all these things we want. If we can't look at ourselves individually and challenge our prejudices the way we have been brought up to believe is a Nuer, somehow are stronger then Dinka we are going to teach you a lesson. I think this war is about of going to teach you a lesson there is nothing more to it.

Nyandol Nyuon believes the rival leaders in South Sudan should have resolved their differences through negotiations, instead of allowing violence to spread.

She suggested it may be up to the younger generation in South Sudan to unite, to make sure such problems didn't keep on occurring in the future.

"Riek is saying I am going to teach Kiir a lesion and Kiir is saying I am going to teach Riek a lesson and that how we are dying for because there is no real argument because both of them can sit down. But at the end of the day if we don't unite as young people, it doesn't matter what the international community do, five years later down the line we will do exactly the same thing.

Garang Majok Dut is a final year medical student in Melbourne.

He echoed the call by Nyandol Nyuon for South Sudanese to put emphasis on their citizenship, rather than on tribal allegiances.

"So we can complain however you like but if you don't convince yourself that you are citizen of that country; and someone from other tribe is also has much importance as you are and you need to work together to serve the agenda for the country, then the politicians are always going to exploit the rips among us and that serves them, its serves their purpose and they have no reason to act for the national agenda when the national agenda doesn't serve them well.

In a final statement to the meeting, Adam Bandt promised to lobby his parliamentary colleagues about the possibility of Australia becoming more involved in South Sudan.

And he assured those attending that he wasn't the only federal MP who was aware of their concerns about what was happening in their homeland.

"Some of us are paying close attention to what is going on and we know that you will be very worried about your family, relatives and friends. We hope for everyone's safety.

The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to urge Australians to avoid travelling to South Sudan because of the ongoing unrest there.

Feature by Ajak Deng Chiengkou



Source World News Australia


Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch