Concerns for safety

Members of Shepparton’s South Sudanese community could be missing in the war-torn nation, with communications affected by civil conflict.


South Sudanese community member Thon Thon said fellow community members had visited the country for Christmas and up to 15 people could be missing.

“Everybody is trying to get exactly where that person is,” Mr Thon said.

“Some people (have been contacted and) say ‘Yes, I’m exactly here’.
Other people, we don’t even know where they are.”

Despite the latest round of civil conflict — which has left more than 120 000 people displaced — community members are still visiting the country.

“The ordinary people (in South Sudan) can’t move and part of their family are here,” Mr Thon said.

“It forces people from here to go there and move their family members to a safe place.”

Mr Thon said a South Sudanese community member recently returned to the country because of concerns about the safety of his brother and mother.

“He is just going there to pick them up so he can take them to Uganda or Kenya,” Mr Thon said.

“He knows it is not safe, but there is no alternative.”

In Mr Thon’s home of Bor, residents are without communications. He said he still communicated with his sister, who relocated to the capital Juba. The violence stems from a political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar.

Mr Machar was dismissed in July after being accused of attempting a coup.

Mr Thon arrived in Shepparton eight years ago, after spending 14 years in a Kenyan refugee camp.

Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District manager Chris Hazelman said the lack of information was distressing for the community. “The feedback I’m getting out of the community is they’re concerned about what’s going on,” Mr Hazelman said. “However the community is generally working pretty well to cope.”

 

Thon Thon works at the Ethnic Council and will talk about the impact of the current violence in South Sudan on the regions South Sudanese community. Thon Thon and niece Monica Cuol

 

Article and image courtesy Shepparton News

 

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