Utahns Call for Peace in South Sudan

Aug 6, 2014

Demonstrations against the violence in South Sudan took place in Utah and throughout the country Wednesday as President Salva Kiir visits Washington DC for an African-US summit. The Nuer community in Salt Lake City walked up State Street to the Utah Capitol, calling for peace and the deposition of Salva Kiir. The demonstration comes as the United Nations reports this week that militias in South Sudan killed at least five relief workers of Nuer ethnicity.

In a parking lot on State Street and 800 South, a couple dozen men, women and children gather, preparing for a walk up to Utah’s Capitol building. They chant, “Salva Kiir is killer, Salva Kirr must go.”

“I’m here because my people, they’re dying every single day because of the dictator from my country which is President Salva Kiir,” says Nyadengjock Yaak, a refugee from a Nuer ethnic group in South Sudan, who came to Salt Lake City in 1995 during a civil war. The recent fighting erupted in December, sparked by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his dismissed Nuer deputy. Yaak says people are being raped and killed every day, and it’s only getting worse.

“On Sunday, I was on the phone with one of my good friends… he was killed right when I was with him on the phone,” she says. “But nobody is doing nothing about it. We want our voice to be heard, because even the United Nations that are there, people are being killed while they’re watching.”

In fact, UN peacekeepers are evacuating staff and aid workers from northeast South Sudan after militias killed some relief workers. Othow Awang is a member of the South Sudanese community in Utah. He says the country needs humanitarian aid, and they need international pressure to help unseat Salva Kiir.

“We want to raise our voice to our representatives of Utah to take this message seriously to the Obama administration," Awang says. “If we wait now, tomorrow we are going to cry more and pain is going to spread, and that’s what we don’t want to happen.”

Thousands of people have been killed and over 1.5 million have fled the fighting in South Sudan since December. Aid agencies have warned of the likelihood of famine if fighting continues.