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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid