WARRNAMBOOL’S South Sudanese community is grieving the loss of family members and relatives from warfare in their homeland and is asking south-west residents to help raise funds to ease the plight.
The brother of one member was shot dead and his wife and children are hiding in bushland as a violent tribal faction wrests control of the government in the newly-independent nation of South Sudan.
Cousins of others are also among the dead, estimated at more than 10,000 since January.
“There is sadness and anxiety,” Warrnambool’s Sudanese leader Otha Akoch told The Standard.
“The brother of Thomas Lual was shot as he and his family were trying to escape from the city of Malakal.
“His family is hiding in the bushes and little is known about their safety. Other relatives have lost their homes and possessions.”
The stories will be shared tomorrow at a cultural meal fund-raiser in St Joseph’s parish hall from noon.
“It will be a chance for us to say thank-you to those who have stood with us in our good and bad times,” Mr Akoch said.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed. The initiative came from Warrnambool friends
“It is a community effort to be united in grief, to share the pain we are going through.’’
The latest conflict erupted in December and spread to three states, including Upper Nile where the Shilluk (Chillo) people live — the ethnic group of many Sudanese who settled in Warrnambool after fleeing war more than a decade ago.
“The level of destruction in these towns is beyond imagination. Everything was reduced to the ground and the tragedy is big and unbearable,” Mr Akoch said.
“This conflict is between two larger ethnic groups: Dinka and Nuer, and the Shilluk are victims of their neutrality.”
Mr Akoch and others from the Warrnambool community are keen to return to their homeland to help with rebuilding a stable democratic system when peace is restored.
In the meantime, money raised from events like this weekend’s food feast will be channelled back through trusted contacts embedded in South Sudan to help victims of the conflict.