The Common Good

Despite Genocide, I See Hope for Sudan

The events that I saw in my childhood during the war in Sudan are called genocide today. The Arabic militia killed many people in what is presently the oil field area of the Unity State, which includes Panrieng, where I was born. The soldiers called out a few people for an unknown reason, and I was among those captured. A man in the group said we should run. They shot him and the rest of us ran while the militia was shooting at us from every direction. On the spot men were killed as well as women, including children.

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The hopelessness caused by displacement and the burning of our villages was due to sadistic and cruel acts. The houses on fire killed vulnerable elderly and children inside the houses. It resulted in homelessness where millions of people were displaced into the bushes where wild animals fed on them. I was part of this displaced group, and by chance, as a small child, I walked for months to refugee camps where I experienced an unbelievable lifestyle. In several refugee camps I lived in Ethiopia to Kenya, I witnessed mass death. The outbreak of disease exacerbated by hunger took many lives. The unhealthy diet, dirty water, and food shortages were measures contributing to many deaths.

I was a powerless child at the time, but I wish I had the power with authority so this injustice would not happen -- or would hardly ever happen -- again. I would push to make the abuse of human rights illegal and punishable by law. I would predict the cause and effect of the war and prepare for justice to be served rather than injustice. A peaceful negotiation and a fair distribution of privilege and resources across Sudan would be the best option. Avoiding the war that claims uncountable deaths and unspeakable injustices needs a mothering heart among the Sudanese.

In fact, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 brought some hope to all the Sudanese, particularly in the marginalized areas, namely Southern Sudan including Abyei, Blue Nile, Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Eastern Sudan. However, the promise to make this peace attractive falls on the central government, led by President Al Bashir of Sudan, presently indicted for wars crimes by the International Criminal Court. Sudan's government is known for genocide rather than delivering peace and stability. The current Darfur situation is an example of his cruelty.

January 9, 2011 will mark a new hope for Sudan that every citizen from the marginalized areas is yearning for. On that day the people of Southern Sudan will vote in a referendum for either unity with the North or succession. People of the Abyei Area will vote to remain in the North or become part of the South. However, the government is tirelessly working to turn this promising day into a nightmare. For example, the government is playing games with the sensitive issue of oil resources in Unity State, Panrieng, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile State in an effort to pull the country back into war.

Enough is enough! We the Sudanese have learned a difficult lesson: investing in war is a failing business. The days are numbered for the new change to take off, but the results are uncertain. The Sudanese people throughout the world and at home in Sudan are appealing to all humanitarian entities, governmental entities, and religious organizations to join hands to save the lives of innocent Sudanese in the coming next few days. The referendum is the hope, but the government can deflate the hope and turn it to violence, which will take more millions of lives. The industrialized nations that witnessed the signing for the peace agreement should remain alert because what they were witnessing is now being subjected to denial. The U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, has characterized the period of time leading to the upcoming referendum as a ticking bomb.

But a collective effort from CPA signatory foreign states like the U.S.A., Britain, and Norway can ease the burst of this ticking bomb. Please, let us shout loud for peace and prosperity in Sudan in the coming days.

Beny Ngor Chol is completing his degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Together with another Sudanese refugee, Ayuel Leek Deng, and Barbara Youree, he authored the book Courageous Journey, Walking the Lost Boys Path from the Sudan to America (New Horizon Press, 2008).

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