April 11, 2015. From the Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan, “The Voice of the South Sudanese Diaspora” (CASS)
Who are/What is the South Sudanese diaspora?
South Sudanese diaspora are immigrants who escaped Sudan in search of refuge in the neighboring countries and across the globe. The reason for this mass migration was ill treatment and religious persecution of South Sudanese by the Sudan government. In the dawn of the second civil war, a significant number of South Sudanese were granted refugee status and resettled in many countries around the world.
However, with the turn of the millennium, among the South Sudanese in the diaspora and in the United States, Canada and Australia in particular, the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan” became the most easily identified element of the diaspora; this group has become the grown up “Lost Boys and Girls” today. As very young boys and girls, they walked from Southern Sudan across dry plains, rivers, swamps and forests fleeing the scourge of the Sudanese army to Ethiopia. Many died in the forced migration. Subsequently, they were expelled from Ethiopia, and made a similar trek across Southeastern South Sudan to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya where many were educated and selected to go to North America, Australia and other nations.
In North America and Australia the Diaspora has gone through a traumatic but transforming process.
Like other African-born immigrants, the South Sudanese diaspora has sought education. More African-born immigrants hold a college degree (44%) than Asian immigrants, native-born white Americans or native born African Americans. Many have achieved this level of education while working, raising a family, and helping to support an extended family in South Sudan. To their credit they have become proud Americans while retaining elements of their South Sudanese heritage. They have had the opportunity to benefit from the best practices of two vastly different societies.
Most of them have a Christian background and claim a strong faith. It is not uncommon for them to affiliate with one denomination in their new home, but another when they go “home”. This can be directly attributed to the British Colonial practice of sending foreign missionaries to areas based on their denomination.
At the same time, they are not a homogeneous group and reflect many of the characteristics of the population from which they originated. As reported by the Democratic Progress Institute, “Diaspora members have the resources, skills, and contacts to alter the course of events in their homelands. While these resources may be used to perpetuate conflict, they could just as easily be redirected to support peace and reconstruction.”
South Sudanese Diaspora Contribution to rebuilding their Country
South Sudanese Diaspora feels compelled to be involved in the political, social, and development needs of those who remain in their native Country. Typically they are, understandably, most interested in the state, county and village from which they came. Thus we see the installation of wells, schools and hospitals funded through diaspora efforts in very specific locations. That loyalty and established connections, if used collectively to denounce today’s civil war, increases the chance that the voice of Diaspora could be what is needed to make South Sudan’s warring parties choose peace and establish rule of law that will protect all the citizens regardless of their ethnicity.
However, within some of the diaspora we see a reflection of the tribal hatred, bitterness, resentment, that many in South Sudan feel. Because of the ready availability of communication methods, especially within the social media and in editorials, we see the propagation of hatred which supports the continuation of war rather than a peace-directed compromise beneficial to all the people.
On the Other Hand
Diaspora members have a unique perspective and have much to offer the mediation process. They have a viewpoint informed both by their understanding of their homeland and the benefit of higher education and exposure to multiple societies and concepts. Therefore, the Diaspora must not only to realize that it has influence but also a moral responsibility to support peace in their country
While they may not have the “seat at the table”, that so many desire, they have the ability to influence the parties in preliminary negotiations and through consistent, constructive contact. Additionally, they may offer their services to those who directly facilitate the negotiations by sharing their perspective. Lastly they can help to influence the population at home in constructive ways.
Advocates from other nations and cultures, no matter the level of passion and study, cannot develop the understanding of the people that the South Sudanese themselves have. Such advocates can be much more effective when they work closely with South Sudanese with similar goals.
In much the same way, the diaspora, though not involved directly in the negotiations, can add value and understanding to those who moderate and facilitate the direct negotiations. It has the ability and resources to strongly influence the outcome of this unfortunate, ongoing war. The Diaspora can become a united force for Peace and Progress by offering the mediation process deep understanding and knowledge and internationally obtained contacts while using their skills and perspective seeking the best for all the South Sudanese people
Choice: To Support War or Peace?
The purpose of this document is to appeal to the Diaspora to support peace and not war. No military solution can bring an end to the 15 months-long war. All the revenge killing and retaking of towns by the government and rebel forces is only deepening and exacerbating the existing level of tribal loathing among our innocent population. Therefore, the current rampant violence in our country of origin must be ended quickly before it consumes all our relatives and country’s men and women.
For the Diaspora to work together for peace, we in CASS call for all the peace loving members from all the 64 ethnic groups in South Sudan to:
• Join our membership
• Denounce the ongoing war and support peace
• Start or support the community –community dialogues.
• Work with Church groups and other peace based-organizations to advance the call for immediate end to the war
• Work collectively with American and Australian Peace Advocate groups
The voice of Diaspora is needed to bring durable peace to South Sudan. And you/I/we are the agents for that change to happen.