Sudanese refugee rally for independance 311.
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Hundreds of African migrants gathered in Levinsky Park near Tel Aviv’s central
bus station on Sunday to show solidarity with the citizens of South Sudan, who
were voting that day on a referendum on separation from the north.
unable to vote themselves, the South Sudanese in Israel urged their countrymen
to vote for independence.
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“The time has come to call for
separation. It is a chance that won’t repeat itself,” said one of the
speakers who took to the stage. “It is time to be serious about the future. We
call on our brothers to be like Joshua and take our people to the Promised
Long accustomed to keeping under the radar of the Israeli public
and authorities, on Sunday the Sudanese came out into the open, waving flags of
the south, holding banners calling for separation and singing and chanting for
If the referendum goes their way and the government in
Khartoum accepts the choice, they will be able to return home, some after years
of involuntary exile. There are an estimated thousand South Sudanese living in
“We want to separate because since 1956 we have been at war with
North Sudan and we are looking for our freedom,” said Changkouh Dieng, 38. “We
have been fighting for almost 50 years and now for the first time have a chance
to choose our own independence. We need to take the chance and present our own
state to the world.”
Dieng said the Sudanese government was pressuring
the South Sudanese not to vote. “They are looking for ways to disrupt the
referendum, but unless they illegally stop it from taking place, we are sure
that South Sudan will be independent.
Almost 4 million people registered
for the referendum, all South Sudanese.
There is no question that they
plan to have their own independent state,” he said.
Dieng, who has lived
in Israel for six years, said the South Sudanese migrants at Levinsky Park had
come to Israel fleeing from mistreatment by Sudanese government
“They assaulted, kidnapped, tortured and killed the citizens of
South Sudan during the war. Because of that they fled the country and came to
Israel,” Dieng said. “We hope that if we get our own country and are left alone,
we will be able to go back.”
Dr. Galia Sabar, chairwoman of African
Studies at Tel Aviv University, said the future of Dieng and his fellow South
Sudanese depended largely on Khartoum’s reception of the vote’s
“If [Sudanese President Omar] al- Bashir stands by his words and
accepts the referendum’s results, it opens the door to serious state-building,
meaning that the thousands of refugees will be able to return to their homes. If
he won’t, it means war and thousands of new refugees,” she said.
refused to predict which way the choice would go but said that a lot was at
“The referendum has huge implications, first and foremost for the
people of the region who have been at war for decades, but also for wider
circles of geopolitical interests,” she said.
According to Sabar, Sudan
is a focus of diverging international interests, with the United States and the
West pushing for independence and countries such as China and Iran pressing for
continued unity. At stake are South Sudan’s massive oil reserves, which are
currently used by the central government in the north, but in the case of
separation will likely be split between the two.
Sabar said the South
Sudan referendum was being keenly watched by other African leaders, afraid that
if South Sudan successfully separates, it would be a precedent for other
autonomy-seeking regions to attempt to imitate.