JUBA — Thousands gathered at the John Garang Mausoleum in the South Sudan capital of Juba to celebrate the country’s seventh annual Martyrs' Day. The event is held each year to remember the sacrifices made by the two million people who died during the long civil war in Sudan before South Sudan declared its independence. This year, many are calling on the state to help support the widows and orphans left behind.
Martyrs' Day began on this day six years ago, one year after Dr. John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash. Garang is the founder of what is now the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), the ruling party in South Sudan. He is regarded as the founding father of the world’s newest country.
Abouch Bany, widow of the late SPLA commander William Nyon Bany, was one of the first speakers at the Monday celebration. She said the financial and emotional burdens of widows after the war are many.
“What we are facing now is not our husbands we lost but how to raise the kids. [It] is not easy even if your husband is alive, you are the one to raise the child because men - they are [usually the] providers, if they are [the] providers, we have to look after the kids,” she said.
Pitia Nyabor Nyombe’s father was an SPLA soldier killed during the war. He said that the austerity measures have made it difficult to provide for the nation’s orphans and encouraged others to contribute to the South Sudan War Orphans Association.
“The sole responsibility of this community-based organization is to collect enough data about the war orphans and to lobby for non-governmental organizations to help in providing sponsorship to the war orphans,” he said.
Thousands sang traditional songs, danced, and waved small flags as a military parade passed by in downtown Juba.