Thousands Turn Up To Celebrate Independence Across Australia

Thousands of South Sudanese scattered in different States/Territories of the continental Australia, along with other friends from different parts of the world converged in Recreational parks and town halls to mark the long awaited birth of the Republic of South Sudan.

Thousands Turn Up To Celebrate Independence Across Australia
Acholi dancers entertaining guests while representing the State of Western Australia [©Gurtong]

By Deng M. Koch
Australia, 14th July, 2011 [Gurtong] – Thousands of South Sudanese scattered in different States/Territories of the continental Australia, along with other friends from different parts of the world converged in Recreational parks and town halls to mark the long awaited birth of the Republic of South Sudan.

Over the weekend In Melbourne, nearly 5,000 excited people from all walks of life turned up to register their joy and pride through dancing and singing and waving flags of the new Republic; while some were fully immersed in their unique attires of traditions and cultures.

The hardcore “products” of the liberation movement, the Jiec Al Amer did not hesitate to fully dress in Jungle Camouflage military gears and proudly matched to bring back to life, their long forgotten routines in Ethiopian camps and in South Sudan. 

Acholi dancers
Acholi dancers

Whether in Melbourne, Adelaide or in Perth, the “boys and girls” were fully clad in uniforms and proudly showed off their SPLA skills, a worthy tribute to the men and women, dead and alive of South Sudan and in the marginalised regions of Sudan, who waged more than two decades of protracted and ferociously  bloody war of liberation. It is through the enormous sacrifices and suffering of the men and women in uniforms, that this became a reality; this did not go unmentioned.

The leader of Jiec Al Amer (lost Boys) in Adelaide, South Australia, Mr. Gabriel Atem Lueth Akunguet, while speaking on behalf of the boys and girls who have infamously earned the nick-name of ‘lost boys of Sudan”, paid a moving homage to the founding fathers and all the fallen heroes/heroines of the Movement, the Sudan People Liberation Movement and the Sudan People Liberation Army, as well as those from preceding movements, some of which were informal but nonetheless carried the same desire at heart.

“At this time we would like to honour the founder of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and former President of GOSS, the late Dr John Garang De Mabior, whose tireless efforts and self-sacrifice brought us closer to where we are today” said Atem.

He continued that, “I would also like to pay homage to the current President of the Republic of South Sudan, His Excellency General Salva Kiir mayardit, for showing tremendous courage under very trying circumstances and we are forever grateful to those who stood with him in this great step forward. We are not there yet but with God’s help we are much closer to true freedom, Justice and prosperity.” 

Azande dancers -  Western Australia State

Azande dancers - Western Australia State

While majority South Sudanese here rejoiced, one thing came out clearly, at least from those whose opinions and comments Gurtong has sampled, the fear or rather concerns for the long term future of the new Republic of South Sudan. Those who expressed their views had one thing in common, consistent appeal for unity of purpose among the people of South Sudan, a unity in diversity and the need to be good, responsible and law abiding citizens in the new Republic.

 

“At this time freedom is only a word until we live in the freedom; our people have fought so hard for it” said the south Australian leader of the lost Boys. There are still challenging days ahead of us. As Southerners we must pull together. Not in wishing but in action, action speaks louder than words. We have to knit ourselves together for the common good of our country and communities. We need to join our heads our hearts and our hands together so that we can move forward as one great people,” Atem addressed the gathering.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Australia, Honourable Kevin Rudd, met South Sudanese Community leaders in Perth, Western Australia on Monday evening. The brief meeting focussed on the future of the new country and what role the Australian government and people can play to cement strong foundation for democratic, transparent and accountable governance in South Sudan.

Minister Rudd congratulated the people of South Sudan for their achievement, and acknowledged that they have endured the worst and longest of suffering; and underlined that he was in the old Sudan about five years ago and hence has a fair idea of what the people there endured.

“For me it’s a delight when we went through the first phase of referendum” he said, “I was on the phone with foreign ministers around the world, to ensure peaceful conduct of the referendum that was the first miracle.”

The second miracle in the honourable Minister’s view was to ensure that the signatories to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, particularly the National Congress Party accept the outcome of the vote. “Our task as international community was to rally to the flag and ensure peaceful transition.”  Honourable Rudd said he was now looking forward to welcoming the new Republic of South Sudan and its government to the next United Nations General Assembly. This he said will be the third miracle.

The highly popular Minister concluded by saying that, “building the new nation is where you boys and girls comes in, you have the more practical role to play.” Indeed, the people here and elsewhere in the Western world have better opportunities and have learned in more advanced systems than their counter-parts back home, hence the Minister’s point is a very valid one.

Mr. Rudd taking questions

Mr. Rudd taking questions

The Minister was also reminded about other critically outstanding issues, including the unimplemented protocols in the defunct Comprehensive Peace Agreement which is the core document that prepared the way for the realisation of long envisioned Independence of South Sudan.

Also in the meeting were some influential State Labour party Members of State Parliament, whose constituencies majority of South Sudanese resides in Perth, hence are close to the community; some are former Ministers in the last State Government which is now the State opposition: Honourables Margaret Quairk – former State Minister for Multicultural Interests, John Kobelke – Former State Minister for Police and Jeannine Freeman, Member for Nollamara.

The acting Chairperson for the South Sudan Community Association of Western Australia, Mrs Charlote Kasangu, spoke and thanked on behalf of the community, the Minister, Australian governments at all levels and the Australian people for their immeasurable support to the people of South Sudan at the hour of their needs. A friend in need is a friend indeed!

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