Women for Women’s Future

By Daniel Bol

The South Sudanese women living in Melbourne have strongly realised the need to educate more women for the future of the newly independent country.

Last Saturday, the fundraising event launched at Mitcham was an amazing and encouraging initiative for the future of South Sudanese women, both those living in Australia and those that live back in South Sudan.

The Baai Bor Women Association, just three years old, is an organisation founded by women. It is a fast-growing project, with an aim to build a permanent school for girls in Jonglei State. This idea is a challenging initiative from aspiring individuals who have realised that education is a greater problem in Sudan than it even was before the civil war.

Sudan is part of the Third World nations, where the war has greatly affected the future of women for many decades. The impact of this is that many of women who come from Sudan arrive without basic educational skills. It’s greatly lowering their employment opportunities, as well as their ability to communicate and pursue further academic studies.

Aluel Ayoor, the president of Baai-Bor Women Association in Victoria

Australia is a nation with a variety of education services to cater for a large influx of migrants. Australia realised the need to help and offered many basic programs, including adult education services. Out of those countries where citizens were not able to access a better education, Sudan is one of the severely affected nations.

But despite many services that are being delivered to all refugees in terms of education, Sudanese women are falling behind the fast and free learning here in Australia. This creates constraints for those women in terms of job interviews, using banks, hospitals and transport services and liaising with Centrelink. This is not a simple problem and no one is to blame for it, except the causes of the original conflict and Government negligent in Sudan.

In contrast, many nations in developed society see women’s education as vitally important. Women are always custodians of the nation; they universally provide some significant contributions to the nation and the wider society when they are educated.

As a consequence, the bitter reflections of the fast and painful experiences from this situation has prompted the South Sudanese women in Victoria to form their own organisation that helps both older women – whose education has been affected  by the war – and young women and girls, who have got their basic education from universities, colleges and high schools in Australia. They aim to join women together for brainstorming discussions on what would be the best way to help their fellow sisters who they believe are dying from growing poverty and lack of education in South Sudan.

South Sudan has just achieved independence as an autonomous state, but is still on a slow recovery in the learning process. In general, the value of young women in Sudan is a painful experience to explain in term of education, since they are only to be married off when they have reached the minimum adolescent age, usually between sixteen and seventeen years. This notion remains because of poverty and a way of life where parents demand dowries as income from their daughter.

It doesn’t matter for the parents whether the girl is in school or not. The parent would explicitly overlook the future of educated women for the price they would receive from whoever is marrying their daughter.

In mobilization to correct this situation, Baai Bor women in Victoria are happy to have found this organization as an alternative solution, which they therefore believe is a golden future for young girls in South Sudan, especially in Jonglei State.

The inhabitants of this state are three communities of Nuer, Murle and Dinka – their way of life is predominantly a cattle herding business, where freedom of education will be hard for young women, except for those from the family of educated lineage. So this project is aiming to bring the learning center to Bor, the capital of Jonglei State, mainly for young girls and young women so that they will engage in learning until they will be able to identify their future among the generations of the 21st century.

All people were actually willing to support the movement, even including the young male graduates here in Australia. Ajak, one of the organizers of the fundraising, encourages all young men to get along. “You men, you have to contribute, these are the girls whom you go yearly and pinch off your wives among them from overseas. Support us so that we educated them,” she said. This is an encouraging reality.

The call from women was compelling to all people that they need money from able people, and basic skills from their Australian brothers and sisters, to support the project for the success of building the girls primary school in Bor. Mrs Ayoor, the president of the organization, has applauded the Government of the Jonglei State in her opening speech for their offer of the land to build a school in the city. The project has already commenced with classroom foundations being built, and Australian brothers and sisters will have to come to Bor with the skills of teachers to help with mentor the young women.

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A visit to the Herald Sun

By David Vincent

I wonder how we will be received…

Left to right: Violeta Politoff, Ajak Mabia, Akech Manyiel, David Vincent, Abraham Gai and Michael Gawenda

It was very clear to me that we all had one thing in mind about the Herald Sun: it is the most unfriendly news outlet towards African communities in Australia. Whether this statement is exaggerated remains to be discovered. In the recent past, the Herald Sun has published very negative stories about African young people finding it difficult to integrate into the mainstream community, suggesting that they are a threat to the security and general wellbeing of Australian people.

This week we visited three mainstream news agencies: the ABC, SBS and the Herald Sun. The mention of the Herald Sun generated a huge debate and everyone wanted to be part of the team visiting it.

As we depart and wave goodbye to our colleagues, we realised that there was a lot expected from us. This put even more pressure on our team, but I just wanted to go there and meet the people who are responsible for producing some of the news that has defamed my community.

We were ambivalent about what was ahead of us in regards to who we would meet and how we would be received.

Tram number 57 pulled up at the Victoria Market and we all got in. It was a very beautiful sunny day, perfect weather for a chatty stroll through Flinders Street, down the tunnel and across the Yarra River. It was a pleasant walk. The conversation started by Violeta telling us about her American heritage; Abraham a keen photographer could not stop taking photos, and we debated whether we will meet Andrew Bolt. We had very random discussion on different topics but at the end it all came back to something about the Herald Sun.

At first we were unsure exactly which building it was. The first attempt failed after we asked one of the passersby whom we assumed might know which building was the Herald Sun. On the second attempt, we were pointed to a building just in front of us by a well suited-up gentleman. As we walked up the stairs towards the HWT tower there was an immediate wave of silence. The only thing I could hear were our synchronised steps up the stairs. It was a relief to see Michael G standing with the photographer Richard at the concierge. We all signed in and were issued with visitors’ passes. This is it! My heart started to pound more quickly than usual as a well dressed gentleman approached us. He introduced himself as Mr. Hugh Jones, Managing Editor. He quickly turned to Richard the photographer and murmured something. I gathered it was about their strict photography policy. That covered, we all introduced ourselves and the tour started as we waited for the lift. We all had pens and note books ready to take notes. I’m sure it was a short wait but to me it seems ages before we finally heard the clicking sound of the lift’s door opening. Michael said, “Make sure you ask as many questions as you wish.”

We quickly learned that Herald Sun actually represents two major news papers, the Herald and the Sun which merged in the 1990s under the banner the Herald Sun.

The tour started at the top floor where all the chief editors and sub editors were located.  At the editor’s suit, there were papers all over on the desks creating a very untidy work area but nevertheless you could see men and women at work. You couldn’t escape the pleasant newspaper aroma in the air. Hugh stopped and explained what each and everyone was doing. We all gathered around Neil, the sports editor who was kind enough to explain what he was doing. Although I did not understand what he was explaining, it was fabulous seeing him clicking through the next day sports page layout; it was simply amazing.

As we walked down the stairs through other departments, I was astounded how on all levels people stopped to say hello to “the Michael”. This man was famous in this part of the town. I was in particular surprised by meeting Bob; I read his name on the badge hanging on his shirt.  In my opinion he would qualify to be the oldest reporter in the building but I quickly let that thought go. He exchanged a few words with Michael as Michael introduced us to his former colleague.

As we walked down to the next level and someone from the team mentioned Mr Andrew Bolt…Hugh turned with a sharp bright smile and said, “Actually his office is on this floor, and perhaps we might be able to meet him.” He knew immediately why we wanted to meet Mr Bolt but there is more to that and am sure he doesn’t know. We all looked at each other as if the entire reason of this tour was to meet Andrew Bolt. To our disappointment he was not in his office but to be honest I wasn’t keen on meeting him. I simply don’t like him. We had another quick stop at the recording studio and to the library where Hugh explained how important this section of the building was to their work. At the studio we all gathered and took a group photo. Even Hugh had a chance to pose with us in the group photo. I looked at my watch and released the time had gone very quickly.

Apart from MX, pick me up, who were gone for the day, everybody we met – including those who were out in the field gathering stories – were all working towards producing one news paper at the end of the day. All we met were lovely individuals. It was amazing how at the end all the stories are collated to produce “the Herald Sun.”

They say, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” This is different from the synergy I just witnessed. At the Herald Sun you have 430 journalists who contribute to just one final paper. Hugh was very generous with his time, although he was not sure what to say when asked some curly questions about how refugee stories are told and represented in his organisation; he was simply humble and welcoming. He even invited us to come back or if we have any concerns/queries we can contact him.

I concluded Herald Sun reporters all just wanted to do their work with no intention of causing anyone or any group of people any harm. One man changed my views.

Abdul, are you Muslim or Communist?

By: Abdulkhalig Alhassan

My full name is Abdulkhalig, but in Australia a big chunk of it has been chopped out to become Abdul. However, the literal interpretation of my name in Arab-Islamic culture is ‘the servant of God’. The classic commentaries and interpretations of Koran say Allah has 99 names. Therefore, there are 99 names starting with Abdul, but they all have the same literal meaning; ‘the servant of God’. Unlike Christians, who prefer to be sons of the God, the Muslims, for some reason, like to show full submission to Allah, that’s why they have chosen Abdul servant and submit it to the rest of Allah’s names.

Despite these basic facts about the origin of my name, however, the stunning fact is, that I was named after the founder and leader of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), Abdulkhalig Mahjoub. Abdulkhalig is a prominent figure in Sudan’s political history. The 1960s and early 70s are considered the peak of both his influence as a charismatic leader and the party’s ideology. Hundreds of thousands of new-born in this period were named after him and his comrade Al-Shafie Ahmed Alsheikh, a leader of the Railways’ trade union. My little town ‘Atbara’ is also considered to be the stronghold of the communist ideology.

Abdulkhalig and Alshafie were executed after a failed military coup backed by the communist party in July 1971. His murder and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 were a big blow to the party and its influence. However, the legacy of Abdulkhalig is still there. He was subjected to an unfair military trial and they sentenced him to death. His last words; ‘A bit of awareness’, when he was asked by the judge; “What did you do to the Sudanese people?” still echo and inspire generations upon generations in the North of Sudan.

However the cost of being named after him in a traditional and conservative society is definitely high. To some degree, the party’s ideology has succeeded in co-existing with the Islamic values of the North-Sudanese society. Nevertheless, some sort of hostility still exists. It could take the form of jokes, sarcasm or even loathing. The jokes usually come from those who are close to you. Like someone, for example, chanting your name in a rhyme; Abdulkhalig adu alkhalig (Abdulkhalig the enemy of God)! Or when you swear by God to someone to confirm that you will tell the truth. He will immediately say; but you don’t even know the God, let alone believe in Him. The religious ones, mostly, show their pettiness  by saying you are an ‘infidel’ and you have been misled by anti-Islam propaganda.

In my situation, the stereotyping was overwhelming. This has much to do with my secular attitude as well as my belonging to Atbara, the city which is considered to be the stronghold of the ideology. Ironically, I  have never been a communist, despite the fact that my father is one, and that’s why he named me after the godfather of the party. However, through all of my life, not one of those who came across and threw their jokes and sarcasms around stopped for a second to ask if I am a communist or not. I was left with no choice than to accept it as a de facto truth  and live with it. Fortunately, I haven’t been bothered by such labelling as I never have had any tendencies towards any religious beliefs.

Coming to Australia the stereotyping has gone in the opposite direction. Overtly, the name has regained its authentic connotation. By this I mean the religious meaning. Wherever I go and say my name, an instant question pops up; Hi Abdul, you are Muslim, aren’t you? I always feel taken back by such a question. There are many reasons for that. Firstly, the scepticism that surrounded my name through my early life has denied me the right to be a ‘Muslim’ at least from the perspective of the society in which I grew up. . Secondly, the entrenched secular traditions in my town have made it difficult to think of religion as a way of redemption let alone make me  a religious person.  Therefore, I always feel I don’t have a clear cut answer to such a question. All I know is that I have never been in a struggle with myself  over whether Allah existed or not, nor I am in need of adopting  an Islamic identity. However, the question is always striking and confusing although it has became very expected. The answer has never been easy or normal. Till this moment, it takes me some time to get the ‘right’ answer. This usually comes with mumbling and confusion.

As you see, it is all about stereotyping. Labelling people and putting them in small boxes has become a norm in this era. Yet, people who have been subjected to stereotyping are left with no choice than to fight back. It could be an exhaustive task, but it might be interesting and a rich experience too.

More women activists for a better Africa

By: Abdulkhalig Alhassan

Against all odds, last week Africa had good news to tell.

Two African women from Liberia have shared the Nobel Prize for peace. The outstanding news emerged amid the familiar news of famine, civil wars, corruption and political instability. Both women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, were awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with Arab Spring activist Tawakel Karman from Yemen. They are recognized as peace activists and non-violent campaigners for their role in ending one of the most brutal civil wars in the continent, alongside their struggle to save women and children during the same war.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72 years old, is the current President of Liberia. She is a veteran politician, having been involved in politics since 1979 when she was appointed as Minister of Finance under the then President, William Tolbert.

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, 39 years old, is an African peace activist responsible for organizing a peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. This led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, the first African nation with a female president. Through efforts to stop the war, Gbowee came with brilliant ideas to rally the public. She gathered women from different religious backgrounds to pray publicly to stop the war. Also, she went further by calling for a sex strike. By doing that, she convinced women to ban sex with their men unless they put pressure on warlords to stop fighting.

The ultra-patriarchal culture that prevailed in most African societies is responsible for the appalling situation of women. The glimpse of hope that once came with the post-colonial movement’s manifestos, especially their promises of progress and gender equality, had ended in delusion. The liberation movements’ comrades of yesterday have turned on each other as bitter rivals destroying everything in their way. The theories of Pan-Africanism which have told us once about the possibility of authentic and modern values stemming from African culture, produced nothing rather than “macho culture’; the culture of tyranny, repression, brutality and the degradation of women.

Jacob Zuma, the South Africa President- the most developed and influential country in the continent- acts as perfect evidence of the bankruptcy of so-called “Authentic African values”. The man couldn’t find a good example in these ‘values’ to impress the world than polygamy! He doesn’t miss any opportunity to show off his three wives whenever he goes out publicly. Meanwhile, he fails in tackling any of South Africa’s chronic problems. Poverty, over-unemployment among blacks, injustice, asymmetrical distribution of resources, crime, and corruption among the African National Congress (ANC) are the features of the country’s politics. Robert Mugabe is another example. The Marxist guerrilla fighter of Zimbabwe has ended up being a brutal tyrant. The current Zimbabwe is merely a big detention centre for its people. Also, in Sudan, while the country is falling apart, its Islamist regime is very busy flogging women with the excuse of immodesty.

African women have endured all the consequences of political failure since liberation. They have suffered lack of skills, unequal opportunities for jobs and education as well as over-reproduction. They pay the painful price of what men do in their society. Whenever a civil war broke out or political instability occurred, African women were left alone to clean up the mess, bring together shattered families and turned out to be the bread winners. Actually this is the main character of current Africa. Whenever you watch or listen to the news there are women suffering with their kids as a result of diseases, famine, or poverty. It is thanks to their courage and wisdom that Africa still exists.

This time the Liberian president gave us a big lesson on how African women could lead and gave hope for the continent’s peaceful future. Her efforts haven’t been confined to just cleaning up what the civil war left, instead, these efforts have gone far to build and develop one of the poorest countries in the world. Since her election in 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has succeeded in building a strong and stable political democratic system in a country that has just emerged from the ashes of a sequence of civil wars.

Since then, she has improved the economy, reduced the international debt to 95%, and has brought sustainable peace to the society by creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which it is investigating the country’s 20 years of civil wars. She has also adopted a policy of free education and health insurance for all people.

It is no surprise then that she has been praised and rewarded from various International institutions. In 2010, Newsweek listed her as one of the ten best leaders in the world, while Time counted her among the top ten female leaders. That same year, The Economist called her “arguably the best President the country has ever had”.

This is the only African female president, and so far, she has done what the whole of male African politician couldn’t do. I think this is a very strong sign to re-think Africa’s’ politics, where women can give us hope and an alternative for a better future.

Arab Spring: not all roads lead to Democracy

By Abdulkhalig Alhassan

The Qaddafi era in Libya is almost done. Thus, another Arab regime bites the dust. However, that doesn’t mean the Arab Spring will bring democracy to those countries that have got rid of their tyrants. There are many indications that the power vacuum that occurred as a result of the downfall of many regimes is going to be filled by political Islamic groups.

In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown a significant readiness to take over post-Mubarak’s reign since the early days after the revolution. Of course this is not coincidental. It has much to do with how well structured and organized most of the political Islamic groups are compared to other parties in the political arena. Ironically, this effectiveness happened despite the repression they had been through for decades. This can be attributed to the nature of these groups where their positioning as religious vanguards made it hard for the dictators to eliminate them or deprive them of their legitimacy in defending ‘Islamic identity’.  They have succeeded in gathering the masses since colonial times around a ‘religious identity’ that promoted the idea that the national state was a colonial product which came to divide the ‘nation of Islam’.  In this way, they succeeded in dictating the agenda of the debate among Muslim peoples.

Over time, this argument, this view of the nation state and the role of Islam gave political Islam the right to act on behalf of Muslims over the entire world and led at the same time,  to a sort of Islamising of the populace’s mentality, with ‘Islamic law’ an apparent manifestation of it.

Although the nation state became a fact of life in the Arab world, it did nothing to affect the ‘myth’ of the ‘Islamic nation’, nor did it lead to the questioning whether Islamic law could be complete in the modern state.

Given the fact that the masses in many Arab countries had ousted their regimes and worked to establish a new ruling system, with a belief  in democracy, the reality is that the term democracy has no clear cut meaning in the Arab political discourse, as it does in the West. For example, the Muslim Brothers of Egypt, although, they claim to accept democracy for Egypt, nevertheless, are creating a heavily polarised atmosphere by taking advantage of Islam as a ‘symbolic capital’. For instance Shariah Law (Islamic law) is a red line and something “not for compromising” according to their spokesman, Dr. Isam Aleryan. Moreover, they have made it clear that voting for a constitutional amendment – which would mean Islamising the constitution – is a ‘religious duty’ according to their campaign’s slogans.

Along the same lines, the Libyan rebels, represented by their political body, the National Transitional Council (NTC), came out of the closet after  long speculations about their identity to announce that post-Qaddafi  Libya will be a ‘modern Islamic’ state where Islamic law is the main source of its democratic constitution. The NTC spokesman didn’t miss the opportunity to spell out that secularism has no room in a ‘democratic’ Libya. Despite the fact that most of the Libyan rebels are hard-line Islamists, the influence of the secular and ordinary Muslims was strong, especially in convincing the USA and NATO to intervene.  Using the term ‘moderate Islam’ is more than enough to let the oil-hungry West to turn a blind eyes to the internal issues of a tribal society like Libya. As a result, the secular people and parties of the new new Libya are going to be the stray goats of the post-Qaddafi era.

Genuine democracy or a pseudo one doesn’t matter much to the West when it comes to oil deals and the ‘war on terror’ as long as ‘moderate Islamic Libya’ provides support in both these areas. Islamic law or Shariah law, in short, is a set of interpretations of the Koran and the Prophet’s sayings produced by many religious scholars at least one thousand years ago. Over time, these historical commentaries and interpretations gained a lot of importance through the political conflicts during the Islamic empire in the medieval times. The seeking of religious legitimacy among political rivals ended up making these works of commentary as sacred and equal to the Koran itself.
By putting these classics, which are now called Islamic law, beyond above time and place, the Islamists have maintained them as a ‘divine law’. However, with all the cosmetic changes these laws have been through, the fact is that these laws are irrelevant compared to the secular laws of today, especially, in terms of human rights, gender equality, women rights, individuals rights, citizenship etc — a set of rights a modern state cannot function without acknowledging and enshrining in law.

No doubt, the Arab Spring was a great event in terms of liberating many  people in the Arab World from fear and repression, yet in my view, Arab people may need another uprising, one that will detach them from the myth of a `glorious past’, especially in politics. Otherwise, the vicious circle will repeat itself.

The ‘Sudanese Brawls’

By Kot Monoah

The media coverage of the Ms South Sudan Pageant is yet another example of the negative coverage faced by the Australian Sudanese Community. As we know, the media is fond of linking brawls and violence to the Sudanese community as illustrated in the media coverage as follows.

Migrants from Sudan, both law-abiding and law-breakers, have been equally tarnished in the past week with a welter of bad publicity about brawls, riots and assaults on cops, all linked to two “Sudanese beauty pageants”.

“Another Sudanese brawl injures three” was the headline in The Age. “Police attacked as they try to stop fighting between Sudanese,” was the heading in the Herald Sun.  Not a good time to be a refugee from Sudan in Melbourne. Murdoch’s national Oz broadened it out to rope in everyone from the Dark Continent (Africa): “Violence clouds future of African pageants”.  Alongside these Sudanese reports were The Age reports of a foreign student returning home to India because he was “bashed unconscious by five men he describes as African”.

The Sudanese violence was no surprise toVictoria’s deputy top-cop, Sir Ken Jones. As he pointed out on 3AW radio, “the nation of Sudan has been wracked with violence and war for decades and migrants, particularly young males, come with that violence as their background modeling”.

He furthered his opinions that, “Young refugees from war-torn countries often struggled to adapt to new laws and ways of living in other countries”, he said. “The youngsters coming out of there have known little else and it does take them a long time to make the transition”.

The media coverage and commentary as illustrated above depict that when some Sudanese pop a cork; the whole “community” cops the flak.

I personally had the delight of attending the Ms South Sudan pageant show on Saturday the 23 April 2011. Indeed it was an exciting show with enthusiastic young people supporting the beauty contestants. The show that night ended peacefully at the Springvale Town Hall.

The media has alleged that violent brawls occurred at a Ms South Sudan related after-party in Clayton. However, what the media has failed to understand is that this event was not related to the Ms South Pageant.  The pageant had finished the night before.

The organisers of the pageant were approached by a group of DJs who wanted to thank them for organising a successful beauty pageant as well as for supporting the models as role models for Sudanese women. The DJs asked them to guarantee the party venue at Clayton.

The after-parties were not hosted by the Ms South Sudan Pageant but rather guaranteed the venue to the DJs with stipulated rules. Ms South Sudan Australia restricted the consumption of alcohol at the party, and the violence at the party in Clayton was not the responsibility of Ms South Sudan Australia. It is unfortunate that these brawls coincided with the Ms South Sudan Australia Pageant.  Alcohol fuelled violence occurs regardless of ethnicity, and is in fact a problem affecting Australian society at large. 

I have watched the media reporting of these events with horror. How could these unrelated brawls have been linked with the Ms South Sudan pageant show?

I was approached by Channel 9 and The Age reporters in relation to an unrelated brawl which occurred on Monday night at Pennell Reserve in Braybrook.

I told the reporters that the brawl was unrelated to the pageant but the media coverage linked it to the Ms South Sudan pageant show nevertheless.

Such coverage reveals and reinforces misconceptions about the Sudanese community. The actions of drunken persons are not ethnic issues but alcohol issues.

Such media coverage seems to stem from ignorance and a failure to observe the ethical obligations of journalism. The message that ought to have reached the Australian community should have been that:

Ms South pageant show aims to create opportunities for young Southern Sudanese women to empower them towards greater self confidence and enhance their strength to address a diverse range of needs. It is an opportunity to celebrate as a community the ambitions of young people and their leadership.

It is expected that journalists and people in positions of power provide a correct version of events and comments that do not racially profile a community. This type of misinformation can breed hate and the vilification of certain community groups. Journalists need to be sure their stories are accurate because inaccuracy has serious consequences for those who have been misrepresented.

Kot Monoah is a practising Australian Lawyer of Sudanese origin.

Separation of Sudan settled South Sudanese in Australia

By: AKECH YANGDIT

I am interesting to tell this as South Sudanese story, but this would be very hard to do. Because the South Sudanese story would need so many book pages. So I am better off doing this at a personal level.

First of all, I am one of the people from Southern Sudan that voted in favor of a separated country (results were 99% in favor of separation).

My perspective are shaped by war memories,( hard facts to wear away). These memories are not strictly personal, but too observational about other South Sudanese’s experiences.

South Sudanese went through horrible, unbelievable time: slavery, colonialism and Islamic fascism that created conditions for civil war that plunged the South Sudan into Death Valley. But I feel like this is not a chapter for these “civil war” stories, or I’m not in the right capacity to tell it as it is. There will be time for it.

Sincerely, I am interested not in my past but my future and that of my community and south Sudan. In fact, my feelings are absolutely shared all over by most of South Sudanese. I must declare! We, Southern Sudanese have been almost universally optimistic about our future as a result of this referendum. Our lives are filled with rich thoughts of changes for the better and the feeling that one has duties and things to go about and fulfill.

Sudan was an Africa nation–which has a fate no one can understand or change. Nonetheless, this referendum, brought solutions. Southerners will separate and go our own way, and that causes not just joyfulness, but a sense of self-determinism which for long time is missing. It gives people of South Sudan the privilege to unreservedly and freely obtain their rights, that would foster and assist them in the realizing every man’s full potential as they live with dignity, liberty, independence.

It would take meditative and abstract thinking for anyone who is not South Sudanese to understand the metaphysical aspects of voting for self-determination and separation. South Sudan, the world newest country, put every South Sudanese’s life back together and it soothes me.

People in the camps worried about everybody they loved back home and about the country itself. It is bad to spend your days visualizing your country going through torture. Thinking helplessly about the nation is the hardest part of war after you survive; it is unrelentingly hideous and butchered without mercy. It is an excruciating hell of a life to lead. and its Consequently make war and it outcome your inevitable autobiography.
You know, when war came to South Sudan, I was lucky. I got out of the war zone to be in a refugee camp in neighboring countries. Refugees’ camp was no walk in the park, but it wasn’t Sudan. But no one could truly escape the war no matter how far you seek safe haven.

While I was in the refugee camp, I would hear news from home that would make my heart sink: funerals every day of the week, being told that relatives of yours had been killed, or a kid that I had played with had been killed.

Even if you became blessed a second time and escape refugee camps and settle into a free and democratic country like Australia, it doesn’t take long for you to realized that you are not the same as everybody in the land. The tag African refugee from Sudan is equated to something else so humilating. And I am not talking about the abyss crack of discrimination, or the news about you and your country as the worst of Africa’s countries with vast natural resources and refugee camps. Sudan is reported as countries that can’t grow it own food and is depopulated by starvation, AIDS and war. Inhabitants are portrayed as uncivilized people that are half-naked, carrying Kalashnikovs with prominently exposed-ribs and bare breasted women

it is not just how war has annihilated the family, the law, and the state of Sudan, but also communities and individuals. After they have gone to a relatively peaceful and democratic country, they will be always be different. This is how it is.You are not only entrenched into a personal lonely and isolated struggle in Australia, but also some very far away woryings.

you go through my daily errands with always this large elephant in the room. The elephant is the country I left behind and seek asylum; Sudan is not just a country, it my family that I left behind too, my mother, sister and brothers and relatives who never left.

What’s more, there are multitudes of Southerners who are still languishing in abject poverty and desolation in camps in neighboring countries, with millions of children growing up without education or basic health care. These children could still witness the horror of death in cold blood by beastly militia and maverick soldiers.

Although then there was a peace deal signed in 2005 in the Sudan, the possible war outbreak still loom. And that means children could still be conscripted into army, women could fall victim to rape, and others could be infected by the lethal diseases without medical care.

Accordingly, we were beleaguered, Although displaced physically from the dangers of our natural habitat (our land), this is not the case mentally. Our South Sudan “homeland” as a geographical or temporal destination looms like cloud covering all the time — it could be nostalgia induced. We were silently searching together for a country and relative stable life. And I can’t stop imagining that the the new nation will make South Sudanese’s circumstances better and people around the world will probably begin to glance at us another way.

Postscript:

Akech Yangdit completed the eight week journalism training program for Sudanese Australians run last year by the Centre for Advanced Journalism at The University of Melbourne with the support of the ABC, AMES, the Sidney Myer Foundation and the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Sudan referendum

By: ABOUK TEL

In a few days the final result of the Sudanese vote will be announced and hopefully it will not cause any harm. Although the result will definitely be separation of South Sudan from the North, I’m waiting with my fingers crossed for the result. I had already started to define myself as southern Sudanese rather than just Sudanese, and pointing this out this has made a difference in my life.

Many young people my age did not cast their vote during the referendum. This may be because they do not care or they did not have enough time to go and vote. The reason why I had to drag myself out of bed to register and vote is because I want to be part of my country’s history so one day in the future I can tell my grandchildren that I made a difference by voting for separation. I’m tired of hearing about the number of southern Sudanese who die from hunger, disease, gunfire and so on. I want those who see a poor country when they hear the name South Sudan to think again before they make such judgments.

The result of referendum will be a reason for those children born in the First World or developed countries and their parents to go back home, especially those who use the excuse there isn’t work for them to do in the country. Now is the time – there are many things that need to be done, and the little ones who do not know their roots, can get to know their roots.

However, when the result is announced and there is a new independent South Sudan (or whatever its name will be), it may take southern Sudanese leaders some time to make changes to areas such as development within the country. When this happens my friend, let me tell you this, the new South Sudan will be the first country in Africa to have a strong economy. How do I know this? Well, already many southern Sudanese in the First World are thinking of going back home to make a difference in the country. And, I believe, in the years to come these numbers will only grow.

Southern Sudan Referendum

By:  ZACHARIA DHIEU BUL KIIR

The Southern Sudanese referendum resulted from an agreement between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2005.  After Anya Nya I (the First Sudanese Civil War) there was the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972. However, this agreement failed due to Khartoum Regime’s actions and the political climate between the North and South. In 1983, civil war erupted again (Anya Nya II), this war was basically a continuation of the Anya Nya I conflict.

In 2005, the above mentioned parties signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South. This ended the 21 year civil war which destroyed extensive amounts of southern Sudanese property, separated families and took 3 million lives.

During the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the SPLM and NCP agreed that after six years the Southern Sudanese people would be allowed to determine through referendum whether they would remain one country or secede.

The Southern Sudanese people were looking for assistance from the international community to ensure the referendum would be conducted on time, fairly and peacefully. The Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, said he appreciated that the southern Sudanese Referendum Commission, who conducted the ballot, achieved this peacefully and on time. He was also pleased to see the Sudanese community in Australia taking part in great numbers, a task which is not easily accomplished. Through the financial and moral support of the international community, particularly in places like Australia, USA, UK, European Union and other countries in Africa, the referendum was able to happen.

During the southern Sudanese referendum vote, I experienced many things. For example, one woman started crying when she deposited her ballot in the ballot box saying “if this nation is not going to be separate then do not blame us again because we’ve tried our best to separate the country”.  Because of the experiences of the generations, from our grandfathers and mothers to young children, this vote will mark a historical day which we will all remember.

Considering all the problems and challenges that the southern Sudanese people have been through, the vote will result in separation. The southern Sudanese people are hoping to celebrate a new nation. These celebrations will be conducted around world, anywhere where Southern Sudanese people are, and the event will take place after the general announcement in Khartoum on 14 Feb 2011.

Post-referendum Sudan: a decadent North on a brink of total collapse, and a young South challenged by its people and its expectations.

By ABDULKHALIG ALHASSAN

Despite the fears, voting in the referendum in Sudan went smoothly and, as expected, has led to the establishment of a new state in South Sudan. The overwhelming vote for separation (99%) was strong evidence that colonial Sudan was a burden rather than a home. Amazingly, even the majority of those South Sudanese who live in the North, and who had decided not to leave it, voted for separation – this despite threats from the government that they would be treated as foreigners. Although the referendum was conducted in a civilised and peaceful manner, the threats and challenges remain. The road to a peaceful future and sustainable development for both countries will be a rocky one. There are enormous challenges ahead for both countries. In the North, the situation is very gloomy and the break-up is going to haunt the country for a long time. The blame-game between the regime and opposition parties as to who is responsible for the separation vote is already taking place. The regime shows no sign of having learnt lessons from the result. It is like the House of Bourbon; it has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Turning a blind eye to reality is a norm for this regime.

The latest speech by the president Omer Albasheir is proof of his arrogance and one eyed mentality. Using very strong language, the president insisted that the separation of the South would be a turning point. Sudan would not compromise on the implementation of Sharia Law (Islamic law) anymore. There would be no more talk of ethnic diversity – Sudan would now be more monocultural than ever before. This irresponsible talk comes at a time when there are ongoing consultations in the Blue Nile region and Nuba mountains with people who are ethnically and culturally different from Northerners and who have the right to vote for self determination for their own territories. This rash and counterproductive attitude of the regime has  put the North on the brink of disaster. Their attitude of ‘my way or the highway’ has kept pushing the rest of the Sudanese ethnic groups who live in the North, and don’t share the regime’s ideology, to look for security in tribal and ethnic identities rather than citizenship, and has provoked tensions in many parts of the country, as we have seen in Darfur and east of Sudan. This catastrophic situation has brought the worst outcome possible; the total break-up of Sudan. The determination of the regime to adopt a policy of ‘one ideology fits all’ has left no room for hope and has made confrontation a real threat. A mass uprising or civil strike to bring down the regime is possible, and may well be the best outcome.

In the South, despite the mood of celebration, the fact is that the new government has inherited an impoverished country that needs to be built from scratch. As has been reported by many international organisations, the country lacks qualified people to run the bureaucracy and other state institutions. Half-century of war has left the country in tatters. For ages, the people of the South experienced nothing but ethnic and racial strife, illiteracy, instability and Northern rule has meant that people have clung to their tribal and clan identity rather than to a national identity.

Regardless of the potential for strife and serious development and national problems, the secession itself could provide the momentum needed to overcome the current and foreseeable obstacles. This can only happen if the new government avoids the North-South policies of the regime in the North, policies that demolished the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972 which gave the South a right to create its own government within a united Sudan. What was seen then as a big achievement for Southerners turned out to be a nightmare for those in the South who were not from the dominant Dinka tribes. They were treated by the ‘Dinka-state’ as second-class citizens. This legacy of prejudice and injustice will put pressure on the new government, which needs to assure minorities that the South is going to be for all Southerners, whatever their racial, tribal and ethnic backgrounds. To my knowledge, many of those who had been party to the 1972 agreement are involved in establishing the new government in the South. They should be aware of how the failures of the 1972 agreement came about and they should grasp the opportunity to avoid those failures now. The future of South Sudan depends on it.

The new government must “realise the ideals of good governance,  constructive management of diversity on the basis of full equality for all ethnic groups,  promotion of inclusive constitutional democracy,  respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms”. So wrote Dr Frances Mading Deng recently, a prominent former Southern politician to the president of the government of South Sudan. It must pursue “a fair distribution of resources, public services and employment opportunities”. He wrote that it must provide accountable financial management and the consolidation of peace through equitable socio-economic development.

These are challenging times for all the people of Sudan. With goodwill, good management and the support of the international community, the people of Sudan may finally experience peace, democracy and economic development.

Postscript: Abdulkhalig Alhassan, Sudanese writer and translator. Abdulkhalig recently completed the journalism training program for Sudanese Australians run by the Centre for Advanced Journalism at The University of Melbourne.