KIMT News 3 – The U.S. – Africa Summit is set to take place this week, but several southern Minnesota and north Iowan’s are protesting one leader’s arrival.
They’re no longer in their home country of South Sudan, but that hasn’t kept these residents of Austin and north Iowa from feeling sorrow for a country, once again in the midst of a civil war.
Nearly everyone at the meeting has lost someone to the political violence which has crossed ethnic borders as well.
In the meeting, organized by the Northwood Anchor news, members of the South Sudanese community gathered in Northwood.
“What happened in South Sudan is indeed a painful thing that some of us will never forget,” said Paul Kulang.
One-by-one, they share stories of horrors from home, in hopes of motivating U.S. officials to bring attention to the country in turmoil.
“The presidential guard came in door by door, killing everybody they got,” said Kulang of Juba.
Thousands of South Sudanese from around the country are now protesting the arrival of South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir to the United States.
Kiir is expected to take part in the U.S.-Africa Summit later this week.
He is accused of ordering the killings of thousands of Nuer people to prevent what he believed was a potential coup.
Rebels led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, who are of the Nuer tribe are currently opposing Kiir’s efforts to attack Nuer communities.
“What happened in Juba alone took over 10,000 lives. They were massacred by the presidential guards. Here are the mass graves,” said Solomon Goy Ruot of Austin.
It’s an ethnic divide between the two largest tribes in South Sudan, the Nuer and the Dinka.
However, other Nuer people like, Gatluak Dieth say that division is only being forced by Kiir.
“If there’s a way that we can take that president out from power, then I believe that it should be the end of our problems. We love to be in a community with other southerners. We would love to be together. There is only one person who is preaching division,” said Dieth.
“Americans help us bring peace, and we hope that they will also help us bring change in the country. A change, so that we may all live as brothers and sisters,” said John Ujwok of Austin.
Many of those in attendance are now on their way to Washington D.C. to help protest.
We also note that several South Sudanese people of all ethnic backgrounds from Minnesota, are making the trip as well.
In the meantime, peace talks will continue between government officials and rebels led by Machar. It will be held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
According to United Nations officials, more than one million people left their homes as fighting broke out.
They’re also warning that a mass famine could hit the country in the coming weeks, if aid does not reach the country in time.
The Northwood Anchor will be publishing a story in their next issue on Monday’s meeting.