Citizens of Sudan and South Sudan were joined Monday by human rights activists, civil society organizations and faith leaders from around the world in a global call for peace on the anniversary of South Sudan’s independence.
July 9th, marks the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. However, the past twelve months have not met the hopes of last year’s celebrations. Since secession, failure to resolve key issues and tensions between Sudan and South Sudan has almost led the countries down the road to all-out war.
Fighting in the border areas has left 873,000 Sudanese people displaced since 2011 and over 100,000 fleeing into South Sudan in 2012 alone. After blocking off all international aid in the border regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Government of Sudan has created a humanitarian disaster and destabilized its relations with South Sudan dramatically. Journalists have also been denied access to the region, effectively cutting the population and their suffering off from the rest of the world.
But the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan are refusing to accept that war is inevitable. The We Choose Peace group is backed by more than 150 organizations from all over Europe, Africa and the U.S. and is calling on the United National, African Union and League of Arab States to do all they can to pull the Sudans back from the brink. As the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) explains, “there has been too much suffering, too much bloodshed and there is too much to lose to let this crisis carry on.”
Support for the campaign has reached the streets of cities across three continents with peace rallies and events being held from Toronto and Washington, DC to Berlin and Cairo. Thousands have also shown their support through the online #ChoosePeace campaign, photographing themselves with I CHOOSE PEACE signs and asking politicians if they do too.
Moving testimony from Sudanese and South Sudanese activists has also made it to the Huffington Post in a bid to get the voice of peace heard. Take Yosra Akasha, a Sudanese human rights activist, who explains that “being killed in war isn’t the worst that can happen. Children have lost their families and have been displaced and exploited as soldiers. They’ve lost their hopes for a better future. Women were raped and tortured and saw their own children and husbands slaughtered. People were starved to death while escaping war.” For these reasons, Yosra chooses peace for her country.
Or Reem Shakwat, a Sudanese journalist, who explains she chooses peace because “Mosaab, a nine-year old kid who cleans cars on Nile Street, walked from Blue Nile to Khartoum on his own. He does not even know where his family is.” She says “I choose peace because I choose humane life.”
The dreams of July 9th, 2011 can still be realized, but this requires sustained peace. As Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative explains, “it would be nothing short of a tragedy if the gains of the past few years, and the hopes of so many people, were thwarted by pointless war.” You can Choose Peace by visiting www.wechoosepeace.org and joining the conversation on #ChoosePeace!