While the world witnesses conflict in Ukraine, beheadings in Iraq and the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa through news reports, Winnipeggers Saturday will be focusing their attention on South Sudan.

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This article was published 25/9/2014 (2799 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

While the world witnesses conflict in Ukraine, beheadings in Iraq and the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa through news reports, Winnipeggers Saturday will be focusing their attention on South Sudan.

War and the threat of famine in the world's newest country haven't been making headlines, but they haven't gone away, said Reuben Mayan Garang, who helped organize a forum Saturday called Eyes on Sudan: Working for Peace.

"We are aiming at engaging South Sudanese in the diaspora to work together beyond ethnic divides and to promote peace back home in the country," said Garang.

The country that secured its independence in 2011 erupted in violence in December.

An estimated 1.5 million people have been internally displaced inside South Sudan and 400,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, the UN said this week. This summer, it warned famine was on the horizon.

Both the South Sudan government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the country's ruling political party, and rebels backing President Salva Kiir's long-term rival have continued to mobilize forces and amass weapons in efforts to consolidate their respective power bases, UN deputy high commissioner for human rights Flavia Pansieri said Wednesday at a conference in Geneva. Peace talks resumed last week in the Ethiopian capital.

"Civilians have continued to bear the brunt of the ongoing armed conflict and of their leaders' failure to stop the fighting," Pansieri told a panel discussion on South Sudan held by the UN Human Rights Council. "The numbers of civilians displaced across and from South Sudan has continued to rise, with no likelihood that people will return to their homes soon," she said. The UN declared that the South Sudan aid operation is the biggest of any single country. This week, it said the combined efforts of donors and the World Food Programme helped to pull two million people back from the brink of famine and severe food insecurity in South Sudan, but it's a temporary fix.

On Saturday, the South Sudanese Community Centre of Winnipeg is hosting talks about how expats can help to unite the country and restore peace, said Garang.

"Unity of the diaspora is key in our role to make peace a priority in our country," said Garang. As a teen, he was one of southern Sudan's "Lost Boys" -- the name given to thousands of boys displaced and orphaned during the Sudanese civil war who travelled hundreds of kilometres on foot to safety. Garang, 42, estimates about 300 Lost Boys came to Winnipeg as refugees.

On Saturday, they're hoping to raise awareness.

"We know Canada has an important role to play when it comes to promoting or maintaining global peace," said Garang. Canada deployed Canadian Armed Forces personnel to the UN Mission in South Sudan to protect civilians and "to consolidate peace and security and help establish conditions for development," Foreign Affairs' website says. In April, Canada responded to the crisis in South Sudan announcing nearly $25 million in humanitarian assistance and $51 million in development assistance.

Calgary's Kuir ´ Garang, a South Sudanese author, poet, publisher and political analyst, will look at the role of the South Sudanese diaspora in building peace. The keynote speaker is from South Sudan -- University of Juba Prof. Luka Biong Deng, a prominent member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass. He's planning to talk about the prospect of the peace talks in Ethiopia and what happens next. The event starts at 12:30 p.m. at 129 Dagmar St. It's free and open to the public.

 

-- with file from UN News Centre

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.