JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN / WASHINGTON - The South Sudan National Youth Union, a pro-government outfit in Juba, has postponed indefinitely a rally in support of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Union leaders said a lack of funds prompted them to call off the rally. Organizers said they wanted to send a message to the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States to support the peace process in South Sudan.
Albino Bol Dhiel, president of the South Sudan National Youth Union and lead organizer of the canceled rally, did not announce a new date for the event, but said the United States has been a good friend of South Sudan and that South Sudanese want that partnership to continue.
Bol called on well-wishers to make donations to fund the rally to show the rest of the world that the people of South Sudan appreciate the support of the U.S.
“We are appealing to all the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], to all those whom it may concern to serve the people of South Sudan, especially the youth, to come and extend a hand of help in any form or shape to our people,” Bol said.
No government department, nongovernmental organization or private citizen has indicated a willingness to sponsor the rally.
United States support
Bol pointed out that the United States was by South Sudan's side during very difficult times.
"We are still bearing in mind those days when there was no food, no medicine, no shelter in South Sudan. Americans are the ones who stepped in and helped us," Bol said.
Bol urged South Sudanese to emulate America's democracy and the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another.
“If they don't want Salva [Kiir], Salva will go home and they will elect another president, and we will pay allegiance to that president. Whoever is coming ... must come through voting but not through violence and grabbing of power by forceful means," Bol said.
Bol praised the Obama administration for helping South Sudan secede from Sudan in 2011.
The United States is South Sudan's largest donor, providing more than $1 billion since South Sudan declared independence.
Protests of U.S. election
While the pro-Trump rally in Juba was postponed, anti-Trump protests in cities across the United States have dominated news headlines this past week.
In Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, just blocks from the White House, a handful of people gathered outside the new Trump International Hotel to protest what they called the racist, sexist rhetoric used by the president-elect during the campaign.
The protesters say they will not praise Trump or allow their national leaders to tolerate hate.
Protesters Shay Carter, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland, said she came to Washington to send Trump a clear message.
“I’m standing out here in front of Trump's hotel to tell people that racism and bigotry and sexism, that is not allowed. We should not live in a country and fear for our lives,” Carter said. “People flee to America and come to America to work, to live in peace and to explore. And I feel like with this whole election, since November 8th, people have been fearing.”
Carter said Trump could enact laws that tear families apart or undo trade agreements, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or reverse important environmental accords such as the United Nations-backed Paris Agreement on global warming.
A major part of Trump's campaign promise was for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Increase in hate crimes
In an annual report released on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States shot up 67 percent over the last year.
The Bureau's Hate Crimes Statistics report said 257 anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred in 2015, up from 154 in the previous year.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit group based in the Southern U.S. state of Alabama, documented more than 400 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment that occurred between the day after the U.S. presidential election and the following Monday.
The SPLC website said many incidents involved direct references to the Trump campaign and its slogans.
Becca Levy, who has been protesting outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington every day for the past week, said she does not think the spike in hate crimes is a coincidence. She said Trump's win over Democrat Hillary Clinton made her feel angry toward American voters who supported Trump.
“It has been really hard for me to watch — from sexism to him mocking a reporter with disabilities to racism — it's just been really hard for me to watch and I have been really hopeful that this country would see that, but I guess something made people angry enough to go vote for him,” Levy said.
Health care concerns
Other protesters worry about Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a nickname for the government-funded health insurance program that provides health insurance to about 20 million Americans, many of whom cannot otherwise afford it.
Levy held up two small signs written in black and white. One read: “All are welcome, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.” The other read: “Human rights are more than just white feelings.”
“As a white woman I have a responsibility to spread this message, because last I checked, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump and, myself, I can't see why a woman would vote for someone who has been so openly violent toward women,” Levy said.
This week, Trump appointed Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News, as his White House chief strategist, a top White House position.
Bannon has been accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other rights groups of writing stories that promote white nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.
Earlier this week, 171 members of Congress, including Democratic California Congresswoman Karen Bass, who frequently drafts legislation on South Sudan issues, wrote an open letter to Trump, urging him to rescind his appointment of Bannon and to ensure that the upcoming White House staff is diverse.
Many Trump supporters accuse the media of exaggerating Bannon's conservative views and of spreading fear about the incoming Trump administration.
More anti-Trump protests are being planned across the country in the coming weeks and months, including one in Washington dubbed the Women's March on Washington on January 21, the day after Trump is sworn in as president. Organizers say the march is open to everyone.
Organizers also say they stand in solidarity with Muslims, women, immigrants and people with disabilities, groups who they say have been marginalized and insulted repeatedly by Trump while campaigning as the Republican nominee.
More than 90,000 people have said on social media that they plan to attend the protest rally in Washington.