Posts Tagged ‘southern sudan’

10th January, 2011 – Rebecca-Anne Fowler

Video from the Sudanese Australian Celebrations in Sydney last night for the start of Referendum.

The dancing and singing is amazing, these women are amazing, resiliant and so beautiful.  Thank you to the Sudanese Australian Community for inviting me to share this wonderful night with you all.

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10th January, 2011 – Rebecca-Anne Fowler

The second day of referendum voting for Southern Sudanese in Australia has started again at 8am this morning. 

Last night i was invited by one of my Southern Sudanese friends William, to attend a celebration/meeting of Southern Communites after the first day of referendum voting ended.  The night was a mix of speech’s, dancing and celebration for the coming months ahead.

Speech’s were given by elders and leaders, women were dancing and singing and the mood was electric, the theme: A New Sudan. When anyone mentioned a New Sudan the place erupted into cheers, it was amazing to see the Unity of the Southern Sudanese Tribes in this room.   I myself was even called to give a speech. This was totally out of the blue and not expected. I did my best unprepared speech and got a huge round of applause. I felt so welcomed by all who attended.

It was also a great night for me to catch up with a few of my students and others whom i met at the Youth Conference in Sydney in NOV. I got to catch up with the wonderful Mr John Garang (not the late of course) and he was dressed in his military attire. He was happy to pose for a photo with one of his friends. 

After speaking with a few of the attendee’s last night, i got a brief feeling that the general consensus for this vote will be a separation. One of the speakers said “The Late John Garang fought for this freedom for us, our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who were killed in the war have fought for this for us, now it is our turn to fight for them by voting in the referendum for separation.” Words than rang so true with most of the attendee’s.

I also spoke with a former “lost boy” who whilst not going into full details of his life, i could see that it had taken a devastating toll on the life of many. This particular gentleman now works for ActionAid and is doing great things here in Australia for his own community and many other communities around the world. It is so inspiring to know that someone who has been tested in the most atrocious  of ways in life, has come through and is now giving back to community. I am inspired and at awe of these wonderful resiliant people who have come through devastating times to find some hope in their future. It simply amazes me.

This Tuesday i will be heading into the referendum centre here in Homebush Sydney and will be speaking with some Southern Sudanese on their hopes and dreams for the referendum. I feel so simply honored to be able to be a part of their lives here in Australia and to share their stories with the world is truly a blessing for me.

This year i hope to start writing a book with a few of my students, their life stories. Its going to be an amazing year for the Southern Sudanese communities and i wish them all the hope and happiness for their futures.

-Freeuganda

 

Speakers and Woman Dancing at Celebration

All Photographs Copyrighted to Rebecca-Anne Fowler. Please DO NOT Distribute WITHOUT Permission

So today is my second last day at the HARDA office for this years African Men’s English Program. Tomorrow we will be having our graduation for 2010 and my students are excited yet aprehensive.

“What will we do for the next 8 weeks?” is a common question that is arising. With both our classes and TAFE classes finished for the year the men seem to be at a loss at what they will do with their time. Alot of them are asking about employment over the holidays, what can they do to gain some casual employment.

I feel troubled by the prospects of them going back to the parks they were sitting in before we were able to gain their attendance.  With all the weeks of nothing ahead (f0r our single students) they are at a loss. It pains me that i can not do more. I feel like i’m sometimes caught between a rock and a hard place. But yet again, i am only one person. I do what i can to make the lifes of those around me better and i guess that is all i can do.

I am looking forward to our graduation ceremony tomorrow morning and i know my students are as well. They have invited their families and i am hoping to see a great turnout in support of them. I have started to receive the tutor reports and am amazed at how well some of them have come in the last 12 months due to our program.  It makes me feel like we are doing something worthwhile and giving back to those who need our help.

I have made some wonderful friends with the Sudanese males that i have been involved with and the stories they can tell, wow they will blow you away.

Just this morning one of my students was telling me that he finally got to speak to his sister last month after 24 yrs of absence. She had no idea he was living in Australia and had not seen him since he was a small boy. I think of my own family and not seeing my sister for 24 yrs and how hard that would be on my family so i can only imagine how hard it has been for him. Living here in Australia with NO family. A Lost Boy, still searching for the life he wants. It pains me to hear his stories, so we made a pact, we will go to Sudan together one day and meet with his family. I myself am not rich, i struggle on financially with my own family and life but somehow, someday, god will help us take this journey together, so i can retrace his steps, meet his family and learn more about how my fellow friends from southern sudan have been forced to live for far too long in unresolved war like conditions. Ipray for nothing more than peace for southern sudan and for my friends to be able to return home to a democractic society that they so enjoy here in Australia.

I have also been trying to get on here and blog about my experience at the Horn of African Youth Conference a fortnight ago but am having issues with my internet cable (kids have tripped over it one too many times and its not working) and then my camera decided it did not want me to print the pics on the SD card when i took it to officeworks. So once i have fixed the “Technical” issues facing me ill have the blog up and the pics of the weekend up as well. (I am blogging from the HARDA office this morn).

Also Please Please Please if you want to do something  for someone this Christmas purchase one of our Shirts or Products from ALL FOR CHARITY STORE and 100% of the profits made are used to support a Child Headed Household in Uganda of 5 Children. Betty the eldest girl is a budding scientist and we would love nothing more than to see her acheive her goals. For more information on Betty and her family, please VISIT HERE

-Freeuganda

Tuesday 23rd November 2010

I was at the HARDA (Horn of Africa Relief & Development Agency) office today as usual for my Tuesday Morning Volunteering to co-ordinate the African Men’s English Program. We had a great conversation at our Morning Tea session and i thought it was worthwhile to discuss.

John, (our dear leader) had raised the subject of how hard it was for African Refugee’s to gain employment in Australia and what services are available out there for further training. It was a great topic. A few of our students were really encouraged and opened up to us. “I worked for 20 months after coming to Australia as a printer” Santino from our level 3 english classed divulged. “In Sudan i worked as a printer in Khartoum”. He also added. “In Australia i learnt great lessons in my 20 months working, that quality of product is very important, the machinery is different and up to date in technology, that arriving on time to work is very important.” Santino advised. “I’ve applied for over 30 jobs in the Construction Industry” Spoke Ateem, “yet i’ve not gotten a job yet”. Ateem previously worked in construction for 12-18 months but was unable to continue his employment due to his english skills. This is why they attend our Mens English and Computer Classes, so he can gain a better understanding of the english language and how to adjust to life here in Australia in a casual and stress free setting. Even though they have completed 500 hours of English training through TAFE, they found that coming from a non english speaking country (in particular Dinka, tribal or Arabic languages) it is much harder to understand and learn english. They found that TAFE did not make them feel confident in learning the english language and they could not have too much extra help due to the high amount of students per teacher. Our courses offer low student to teacher ratio to ensure effective learning and absorbing of information.

This journey i have begun with the Southern Sudanese Community in NSW has been an amazing journey full of interesting, heart breaking and couraging stories of life. I really cannot fathome how there is so much racism and misinformation surrounding these lovely people living in our beautiful and free country. My dear Aussies, i ask of you to just take the time to get to know these wonderful and resilient people and the friendships you will make are ones that will last the tests of time. My friends have such wonderful faith and kindness to share with the world, their amazing culture and traditions are to be retained for their future generations and their expressions of love and life through dance and song is to be adored. They make the most amazing music and dances i have seen.

So its now time for me to sign off for tonight but i leave you with a refreshed and revamped website that i have been working on tonight to update my information as my paths entangle and my life takes on new challenges and projects, i hope to continue on this journey with you.
-Freeuganda

In recent weeks there have been requests  for new Sudanese Referendum Registration Centres to be opened around Australia.  As Australia is such a vast country and therefore should have registration centres in each state.  Due to the calls for more centres, 2 new centres have been arranged and are in the process of opening in the coming days.

HR Manager, David Miche’l from the The International Organization for Migration in Canberra has confirmed this morning that new Referendum Registration Centres will be opened in Australia. Two (2) new locations have been confirmed in Brisbane, QLD and Perth, WA.

Brisbane Location is (CBD):

Hospitality Suite, Exhibition Hall 1

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Merivale St, Southbank QLD

Brisbane Registrations will be opened from  Tuesday 23rd November (an exact time frame on how long they will remain open is not yet available)

PERTH LOCATION is due to be released this week and an updated post will be submitted as soon as information is received.

For more information about the REFERENDUM in SUDAN please Click HERE

This morning i found out through one of my Sudanese Students that the registration for Southern Sudan Referendum voting has been placed on HOLD in Australia and the USA.

From what i am aware after speaking with a few other NGO’s and crisis hub, the reason for this is due to the fact that the Council are meeting to decide on whether they will open more registration centres in Australia and the USA. An urgent meeting is due to take place in the next 24-48 hours and the outcome of this will be made public and the voting registrations should then be opened.

I can only hope this is not a ploy of the north to yet again hamper efforts to hold this referendum on time. In the last few weeks, tensions have risen, Northern Bahr El Gahzal state has been bombed under “false pretenses” and reports of southerners returning to the south being abducted by northerns posing as local tribesmen.

My students today seemed very concered about this move to place the registrations on hold here and abroad. They do beleive that this could ultimately affect the holding of the referendum and without registering on time they will miss their opportunity to vote for a ‘New Sudan’.

I pray for freedom and liberties of my good friends and hope that peace can surely come to their land.

Freeuganda

 

7th November 2010;  © Copyright Rebecca Fowler

Sydney Baha’i Centre in Silverwater came alive last night (saturday 6th November) as the Bahr El Gahzar Community of NSW Youth Union held their 2nd annual Culture Day.

Invited by a student that i work with through the HARDA African Mens English Project, i was enthralled in culture the moment i walked through the doors.

Arriving at around 6.15pm i was greeted by some 500+ Bahr El Gahzar community members. Speech’s were made by community leaders and Youth leaders and songs from the homeland sung to unite the community. I was engaged in cultural dancing and song. A local Bahr El Gahzar rap group of Youth’s took to the stage and the atmosphere turned electric. As soon as these youth picked up the microphones the crowd went wild. they belted out their tune singing about a “New Sudan” and “Unity” between the Southern Sudanese. It was a great moment, part of it i was able to capture on video but due to the noise of the screams had to cut it short…VIDEO HERE

The Youth Leaders spoke to the youth of the community about how they need to use their time in Australia for good. To stick with their education and be motivated by the prospects of a New Sudan in the year ahead. Supporting the referendum in January was also high on the list, as well as keeping the youth off the streets.

As a westerner looking in on African Culture it seems we are not so different. The challenges they face with their youth here are exactly what we face with our youth. Our culture is as baffling and confusing to them as theirs is to us and yet they carry on each day with such resiliance and motivation it needs to be commended. Imagine coming from a very rural village to a major city bustling with trains, cars, traffic, traffic jams, accidents, sirens, complete and utter chaos is basically how you could describe the transition.  But it has its up side, our country is at peace, and unfortunately Sudan is not. Decades of war have taken its toll on these people and the only way to sustain their lives and culture was to leave their homeland and seek shelter in a country of peace. We are so lucky to have such resiliant visitors to our shores, let us hear of their stories, learn a bit about them and their cultures and you will find they are just sooo much like us. Family is important, community is important, love, friendship, fun, entertainment, dancing, singing, you would be utterly surprised how alike we are. Aside from skin colour, we are all similar and i really don’t know how people cannot see this.

Coming from Rural Sudan to Blacktown City of Australia must be a huge and amazing change of life and circumstances. Blacktown City is a vast city that has expanded massivly in the last 30 years. I should know, i was born here. As a local Blacktowner i have seen my town grown into a vast city, seen our vast array of bushland be cleared for Urban development, seen our infastructure fall behind due to the vast rise of population and seen the massive change in the community. The Southern Sudanese who have came here have done a remarkable job to adjust to the hustle and bustle of Australian life after years of living in war torn areas. We don’t realise being Australians how confusing our rail or bus system can be to a new Australian. How our tax system can boggle their minds and how even using our vast array of electrical knick knacks can seem like you need to take course to use it.

After my experience last night, being welcomed into the Bahr El Gahzar community i feel so completely honored and motivated. I hope that in January of 2011, A New Sudan will emerge through the referendum and my dear friends who would love to return to their homeland are able to do so as free and democratic citizens of a “New Sudan”.

FreeUganda (Apologies for the poor quality footage, my video camera is requiring a new charger cable)

HARDA (Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency) is holding our Family Wellbeing Day this Saturday, October 30th at Auburn Park, Macquarie Rd, Auburn NSW from 10am to 3pm.

Building Resilience – Good Friends help us bounce back!

There will be Jumping Castle, Animal Farm, DJ Prince 2000, Celebrity Soccer Player, Novelty Races, Halal BBQ, Drumming Workshops, Hip Hop Workshop, Information Stalls and Much More!

All are welcome to this FREE Event. for more information visit HARDA Website or call 02 8762 4225 or email harda@harda.org.au

At least 140 killed in Sudan violence: UN

At least 140 people have been killed and 90 wounded in the remote troubled Wunchuei region in southern Sudan over the past week, a senior UN official said on Thursday.

Clashes, apparently between rival tribal groups, occurred some time since the beginning of the year but reports emerged only after a UN security team visited the remote area by aircraft two days ago.

“Local sources on the ground said that at least 140 people had been killed, 90 wounded and 30,000 head of cattle had been stolen,” said Lise Grande, the UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in south Sudan.

Ms Grande said a military team of UN peacekeepers had left Thursday by vehicles to ascertain the exact situation on the ground.

“This is a matter of deep concern,” she said.

The dead were from the Dinka people common in the area. Local sources suggested that a rival group from the Nuer people were responsible, but the report could not be immediately confirmed.

Clashes between rival ethnic groups in south Sudan erupt frequently – often sparked by cattle rustling and disputes over natural resources, while others are retaliation for previous attacks.

However, a string of recent raids has shocked many, with an apparent sharp increase in attacks on women and children, as well as the targeting of homesteads.

In September, more than 100 people, including South Sudanese troops, were killed in weekend clashes in the Jonglei state after Nuer raided a Dinka village where the troops had a base.

More than 2,000 people have died and 250,000 have been displaced in inter-tribal violence across southern Sudan since January, according to the United Nations, which says the rate of violent deaths now surpasses that in the war-torn western region of Darfur.

The United Nations has warned that poor rains and food insecurity could spark further clashes, with tensions rising as pastoralist cattle herders move their animals into areas controlled by rival groups.

AFP

Read the full report here via At least 140 killed in Sudan violence: UN – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Who was Bok Abudema?

Abudema hails from Alero-Lamogi in Amuru district. He worked as a sugarcane cutter in Jinja during the Obote II regime.

When President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he joined the UPDA, a rebel group composed of soldiers of the former Okello regime which fought to overthrow the new Government.

He joined the LRA in 1988 after Kony was attacked by Museveni’s NRA at Bwobo railways station in Alero Sub-county, Gulu District. He was one of the few remaining LRA fighters who had joined the rebel group voluntarily.

Abudema was involved in many massacres in northern Uganda. In 1998, he took part in the killing of 11 LRA fighters who were accused of practicing witchcraft in Jebelein, the LRA camp in Southern Sudan.

In December 1999, after the passing of the Amnesty Act by the Ugandan Parliament, he executed the then number two, Otti Lagony, in their camp in Sudan on Kony’s orders.

In 2002, Abudema commanded a raid in Agoro Sub-county in Kitgum district in which several civilians and UPDF soldiers died and at least 100 people were abducted. The trading centre was looted and the military barracks burnt down.

In April 2002, he took part in a massacre of about 800 civilians at Katire village in Southern Sudan.

In 2003, he was among the senior LRA commanders who crossed into the Teso region in eastern Uganda and carried out horrific massacres and massive abductions.

On October 2, 2007, he took part in the execution of Kony’s deputy, Vincent Otti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Abudema shouted the order ‘fire’ to the firing squad. Earlier, he had participated in arresting, torturing and humiliating Otti.

He was reportedly wounded during the December 14, 2008 air strikes on the LRA camps in eastern Congo under the joint offensive.

via Welcome To The Sunday Vision online: Uganda’s leading weekly.

allAfrica.com: Uganda: Army Lists Gains Against LRA in 2009.

Over 513 abductees were rescued in the operation that was jointly conducted with the armies of Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The army pointed out that several commanders were either killed or captured, while others defected to UPDF reception points in the war zone. Those killed include ‘Lt Col’ Okello Yapee and ‘Lt Col’ Okuti, while ‘Col’ Thomas Kwoyelo was captured, the statement said.

Among those who defected were ‘Lt Col’ Charles Arop, ‘Maj’ Joseph Okot Atiak, ‘Capt’ Obali, ‘Lieutenants’ Michael Ojok and Francis Opira, and Second Lieutenants Geoffrey Okwera, Onen Quinto and Christopher Ochora.

Under Operation Lightning Thunder, the UPDF and its allies attacked the LRA hideouts with helicopter gun-ships and Mig23 jet-fighters.

In fact LRA is re-grouping and gaining intensive training in Sudan. They are training in Dimo in southern Darfur. This fact is known to the intelligence community,” Maj. Gen. Kuol stated in the Sudan Tribune on December 23.

Last month, former LRA director of operations Charles Arop told The New Vision that LRA leader Joseph Kony had ordered his troops to move to Darfur and report to the first Sudanese army detachment to get protection and logistical support.

The Sudan Government through its Kampala embassy, however, denied it continues to assist the LRA.

–  Its good to see action has been taken. it is a hard one with respect to military action as child soldiers are the main fighters for the LRA, however i do understand there comes a point when its a war situation and hard decisions must be made. God bless the survivors and victims, the innocent children especially.  I hope that through Invisible children the USA will support the Disarmament of the LRA bill of 2009 check it out here *Rebecca-Anne

After getting my kids off to bed tonight i sat down and finally go to watch the last few parts of Uganda Rising. I honestly find it really annoying that the ICC cannot prosecute further back that 2004. To read and watch into the history of the LRA war it is exhausting. Its a very politically motivated war that has turned into a war of nothing, just a war of killing.

To see what the Acholi have faced and continue to face is a very disheartening experience. To me i just cannot understand why people are so intolerant of Africa, why people keep on saying “well there has always been civil wars in Africa” but yet have they taken the time to research why there have always been wars in Africa? i highly doubt it.

Education is the key to life, just as the Northern ugandan children beleive that it may be the key to theirs. They are the next generation of leaders for Northern Uganda, they are mothers, daughters, sons and fathers, what would you do if this was your family, your community suffering? would you sit by and watch and do nothing?

This is my first journal post as ive posted a full historical lead up to this first post going through how i started and why i continue to, on a daily basis, campaign for the rights of those in Northern uganda, why i continue to educate people and update people with what is going on in the world. If the media won’t report it, then someone must, i if that is me, then so be it.

i am a voice for the voiceless, i am one of many, many hundreds of thousands of activist around the world, just like me, working for the ultimate goal, Peace for the Children. be it of Uganda or Sudan or Afghanistan or Iran, Children all over the world are suffering, are you compassionate enough to be a voice for the voiceless?

I received an email tonight from a great activist friend, and his kind words lifted my spirits up high, after watching such a depressing and sad documentary i was uplifted again, to know that my words do make a difference. I have never met this friend, but to know that i have made a difference even to just one person, i know i am doing what i am meant to be doing, my life has lead me on this journey, ending up somewhere i never ever expected to be, but here i am, an activist, a voice for the voiceless, and I WILL see change in MY lifetime. I may be one person, but i can move the world…..i dare you to move it too!

Rebecca-Anne
Twitter: @FreeUganda for what is going on in Uganda and the LRA war terrorizing Africa.
Main Header Picture by: Invisible Children