News / Africa

South Sudanese Debate: Should We Leave or Stay?

FILE - A woman carries a baby as she talks with other women talk at a food distribution center in Minkaman, Lakes State, South Sudan.
FILE - A woman carries a baby as she talks with other women talk at a food distribution center in Minkaman, Lakes State, South Sudan.

When South Sudan gained independence three years ago, millions returned or traveled home for the first time to help build their nation. But many quickly learned the challenges were more difficult than anticipated. With political conflict and violence persisting for the last seven months, a number of South Sudanese are doubting their own future and that of their country.

Mer Ayang sits in a cafe in Juba - wearing short hair, an orange sun dress and long golden earrings. In 2010, she came to South Sudan to vote for independence.  She feels nostalgic about that time.

"It was an amazing experience. It was a highlight for many South Sudanese, the referendum time. People came from everywhere to vote for the first time, for their country, for independence," said Ayang.

The 28-year-old was raised in Khartoum, Sudan, and studied in South Africa. She came to Juba to help establish the national archives at the Ministry of Culture. She discovered what she had to offer was not wanted.

"I was frustrated of not being able to serve my country to the fullest skill that I have, which is a situation that many young men and women are going through. So many people coming from different places. It is either you get corrupted to get your things done or you have a connection or a relative or something. And nobody cares what you know or what you can do. It is about who you know and how much you have, kind of thing. And I was naive about that, very naive about that in the beginning," recalled Ayang.

Ayang voiced her frustration through music. After gaining some popularity in an East African singing contest on TV, she recorded the single 'Southern Sudanese' about the problem of tribalism. It became a local hit.

A future in music seemed possible. But in December, the country's two largest ethnic groups started fighting, killing thousands and displacing 1.5 million people. Ayang said she lost seven cousins and fled with her family to neighboring Uganda for a time.  She came back a few months ago but can't see a future right now.

"I am literally, currently, very, somehow numb emotionally. People are trying to do something. But, like, I am literally not doing anything. I want to reflect on the situation and somehow reach discernment within myself of what I can do and how I can do it effectively," said Ayang.

Behind Juba's basketball stadium stands the house of Akuja de Garang. She left southern Sudan in the early 1980s, grew up and studied in Britain and came back in 2004. In 2012, she started the Festival For Fashion & Arts For Peace, a fashion show to promote local designers and artists from South Sudan's different regions and foster cultural dialogue.

De Garang could not believe it when the new conflict started in December after a nearly 40-year fight for independence from Sudan.

"What are we going to say to our grandchildren? What did we do with this country that we fought for so hard and lots of people have died and lives have been basically completely changed? And now we are letting ourselves go back to that again because two, three of us are not agreeing?" said De Garang.

The 39-year-old said that some of the artists from Jonglei and Upper Nile states she worked with have been displaced. She has lost contact.  But despite the conflict, she plans to stage her festival this August, the third since independence.

"We are still moving on with our plans, with our life. We cannot stop. I mean yes, it is that, sometimes at the beginning we felt like we were in limbo, particularly in January, yeah. And the thing we told to ourselves: What's the option? To start a whole new life in East Africa or you know? No, that was not an option for us. We said we are going back.  We are carrying on and with the hope, with the hope that of course we cannot, nothing is guaranteed.  But we cannot stop living," she said.

De Garang said she believes cultural dialogue is now more urgent than ever and she and her husband are not thinking of leaving any time soon.

Thousands of other South Sudanese are facing similar choices.  Only time will tell what the majority decides.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (1)
Comments
     
by: Arok da Amou from: Juba
July 17, 2014 11:47 AM
I should stay as long as my country be governed by right man such as Kiir mayardit.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid