South Sudan mourns on its day of independence

WAR-TORN: Juma Piripiri migrated to Launceston in 2006 as a refugee from the Second Sudanese Civil War. Picture: Phillip Biggs
WAR-TORN: Juma Piripiri migrated to Launceston in 2006 as a refugee from the Second Sudanese Civil War. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Monday is a day of deep sorrow for Launceston’s South Sudanese community. 

July 9 is South Sudanese Independence Day, however the occasion will not be marked by celebrations, according to Juma Piripiri.

After gaining its independence in 2011, South Sudan plunged into civil war in 2013 after president Salva Kiir Mayardit accused cabinet members of trying to start a coup d'etat.

Mr Piripiri said the war, starting less than a decade after the end of the second Sudanese civil war, changed the meaning of July 9.

“When South Sudan got its independence in 2011, there was a massive celebration in the hope of long-lasting peace for all people in South Sudan,” he said.

“People were hoping at least there would be some stability in the region and loved ones wouldn’t be forced to run away and hide in the bushes anymore. 

“Since the war broke out the appetite for celebration has really disappeared.”

Casualties from the conflict number more than 300,000, with a further two million displaced.

Food is scarce for many who have stayed, according to Mr Piripiri.

“A lot of the people from my region have been targeted, because if you don’t speak the language of the government you become an enemy of the state,” he said.

“One of the major issues is the government started revoking land from people.

“The people have nothing really and on top of that, the government is taking their land, so is this a real government for the people?”

The City of Launceston council has given grants for the community to hold celebrations on South Sudanese Independence Day in previous years, however the community no longer accepts these offers.

Mr Piripiri said Monday was just another day for his friends and family to live in fear of tragic news from back home. 

“My uncle was actually one of the victims that got killed in 2016 – he was chopped by a machete by the government militia,” he said

“These are real stories people are living with, and this is why people don’t see independence as for them anymore.”