Thursday, May 23, 2013
Southern Sudanese Refugees In Anchorage Celebrate Independence
The Republic of South Sudan is now officially its own country after ending decades of civil war between the north and south Sudan.
On Saturday more than a thousand Anchorage Sudanese refugees took part in a worldwide celebration to commemorate their independence from north Sudan.
Today, the Republic of Sudan officially became the world’s newest country.
Hundreds of refugees packed a gym at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fairview for an all-day celebration, which included the unveiling of the new flag and the new national anthem.
“I’m so happy, like I can’t even sleep,” said a Sudanese refugee now living in Anchorage. “We’re going to celebrate all night long.”
It’s a celebration that came at a cost: More than 2 million people lost their lives, and 6 million became displaced. The citizens were embroiled in a 50-year civil war fought over religion, ideology, and oil.
“The situation was very bad because every week people [would] die,” said Bajek Deng, a leader in the Sudanese community. “Not only the war [caused] people [to] die, because of lack of food, and no medicine.”
Sudan’s civil war locked the government-controlled north, occupied by Arabs and Muslims against the oil-rich south that is occupied by mostly Christians. But now southerners are finally free.
“We have now rights to say something, to have equal rights in the country, and we are free to practice our religion,” said Deng.
The independence was a result of a peace deal made back in 2005 between the north and south, where the south was given a vote to decide whether or not they wanted to become their own country. In January, southerners voted to separate.
“It’s now our past, we can move into the future right now,” said Nyanchieh Bichoik, a refugee now living in Anchorage. “So we have to focus on school and to try help one another so we can make our country a better place.”
The country will be divided into ten states, and the capital will be Juba. The nation’s first president, Salva Kiir, was officially sworn in on Saturday.