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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs