31 Dec Toronto’s South Sudanese community urges end to killing
A gathering of Toronto’s South Sudanese lament that at least 1,000 people have been killed in two weeks of ethnic violence.
Emmanuel Jal hasn’t slept since violence broke out in South Sudan two weeks ago.
“Over a thousand people were killed. It should not have happened,” says Jal, 33, a former child soldier in Sudan’s bloody decades-long civil war, now a musician and peace activist.
“I have family members I don’t know where they are. People I ate with I can’t believe were killed. Some musicians are missing.”
A prayer was said at the end of a gathering of Toronto’s South Sudanese community following a small rally Saturday at Queen’s Park calling for peace.
“Everybody who came lost somebody they know,” says Jal.
Two weeks ago fighting broke out in Juba, the capital of the east African country that won independence from Sudan hardly two years ago. The violence quickly spread across the country, leaving at least 1,000 people dead. More than 100,000 are reportedly displaced, many seeking refuge in UN camps.
It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.
“Political issues and tribalism are being used to pit South Sudanese against each other as our leaders fight for power,” Jal says. “Our country’s leadership hangs in the balance and ordinary citizens are paying for it with their lives.”
“This is how genocide begins,” he adds.
He gestures at his friend, Joesph Kau, seated next to him. They are from different tribes: Kau, 38, is Dinka, the majority tribe from which President Salva Kiir hails. Jal is Nuer, the country’s second-largest tribe, as is former South Sudanese vice-president Riek Machar
Machar has been accused by the government of attempting a coup on Dec. 15, which he denies.
Both Jal and Kau are calling for an immediate end to the violence and they ask Canada to pressure the country’s leaders into starting a constructive political dialogue.
“We are here together. We’re saying the same thing. We understand,” says Jal. “Every civilian that is dying in this war is South Sudanese.”
Kau’s cousin, a Dinka, was killed in revenge for the killings of Nuer in Juba. Kau himself lost two of his brothers in Sudan’s civil war, which just ended in 2005. His mother died soon after, heartbroken.
Right now Kau is in the dark about the situation back home because he cannot reach his family by phone to find out.
“The (civil) war destroyed my family,” he says.
He worries South Sudan is heading back to those darkest of days.
“We need democracy. Elected representatives should respect their people’s voice,” says Kau. “There was genocide in Rwanda and many other genocides in Africa. We should learn from those things.”
He laments that, living here in Toronto, he can’t directly help the people over there.
“Our power is our voice. We call for peace, the unity of people in South Sudan and for Canada … to help stop this from going further.”
Full article here: The Toronto Star