IRC aid workers in South Sudan share what independence means to them
July 8, 2011 by Sophia Jones
I have been at the International Rescue Committee office in Juba for three days and there is excitement in the air as South Sudan prepares to celebrate its independence as a nation. My Sudanese colleagues have been given the day off to begin their long weekend of celebrations. While Monday is an official holiday, tomorrow is the “Big Day.”
Yesterday afternoon, Susan Purdin the IRC’s country director in South Sudan, hosted a gathering where staff shared what independence means to them. Many talked of what it was like growing up as children during the war and having to flee to Uganda, and how happy they are to be in a free South Sudan. Others spoke of the importance of moving forward and building the country. Here's what some of them had to say:
IRC drivers Dominic Milla (left) and Gabriel Gume (Photo: Sophia Mwangi/IRC)
Gabriel Gume: “Now that we are free we can exercise our own rights. We have been fighting for fifty years, but now there is peace.”
Dominic Milla: “I am very very happy and just waiting for the day to come.”
Human resources officer, Pita Tahani (Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC)
Pita Tahani: “I am so very happy about being free. I was worried that after a time we would come under Sharia Law and not be able to wear what we want. We start our holiday tomorrow. Over the holiday I plan to volunteer in the street clean-up campaign. On Saturday I will be going to the [Independence Day ceremony at the] stadium and marching with school children on the way there. After that I’m going to a party on the riverside.
I hope that the government will work hard so that our country will look like other countries that are developed. They should end corruption and concentrate on the country’s development.
I want to thank countries that supported us during the war, like Uganda, that took care of us when we had to flee our homes. I was two when I went to a refugee camp in Uganda. Kenya also took many of us in. To the superpowers that supported us during the war years until today and to UNHCR that supported thousands of Sudanese refugees like me, God bless you.”
Muki James Cosmas, senior protection monitoring officer (Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC)
Muki James Cosmas: “I am very excited. I’m 34 years old. I was born during the war and grew up during the war. It’s so good for me to see this day. It’s my independence!
Since I was born in the war I went to Uganda for 21 years as a refugee. I stayed there during the struggle. So I’m so very excited. I’m free now.
This evening I plan to go home to Yei which is about 100 miles away from Juba and 46 miles away from the Ugandan border. My wife and I are planning to plant two trees for our two children, a boy who is six and a little girl who is almost three, so that they will never forget that day. While we are doing that we will explain to them the importance of the day and why we are planting the trees.”