South Sudanese In San Diego Concerned About Violence Back Home
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Aired 12/27/13 on KPBS News.
Members of the South Sudanese community in San Diego are concerned about violence in their homeland.
In recent weeks, fighting in South Sudan has caused more than 50,000 people to seek protection at United Nations peacekeeping bases there.
The violence in the fledgling nation worries South Sudanese living in the U.S. with family still in the country.
San Diego is home to more than 4,000 refugees from South Sudan. Most of them fled here because of extreme violence during the Sudanese civil war that eventually led to the creation of South Sudan as an independent country.
But now that new country — only 2-and-a-half years old — is on the brink of its own civil war.
Fighting spread around the country after clases between two groups of presidential guard soldiers, one loyal to President Salva Kiir and the other to ousted Vice President Riek Machar.
The fighting appears to be both politically and ethnically motivated: Kiir is a member of the Dinka ethnic group while Machar is from the Nuer group.
Mathew Riek, a member of the South Sudanese community in San Diego, said his sister is among those who’ve been forced from their homes by violence in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
“What she told me is that the situation is bad,” Riek, who is Nuer, said. “They have gone many days (with) no water, no food, no clothes.”
Riek and Chuol Tut, who heads the Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego, said ethnic Nuer people were being targeted by presidential-guard soldiers in Juba. Tut is also Nuer.
The U.N is investigating several mass graves in South Sudan. It’s also investigating reports of arbitrary detentions, mass rapes and other abuses. Victims are reportedly both Nuer and Dinka.
Just before Christmas the United States moved additional Marines and aircraft to the region in case help is needed with evacuations or security for the U.S. embassy in Juba.
The leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya traveled to South Sudan on the day after Christmas in hopes of brokering a peace deal.
It’s estimated that more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting.