SUDAN WATCH: SPLM nominated Dr Akec Khoc, a Dinka tribesman living in Minnesota USA, for position with new government

Thursday, June 22, 2006

SPLM nominated Dr Akec Khoc, a Dinka tribesman living in Minnesota USA, for position with new government

Last month, two spokesmen for Darfur rebel groups SLM/A and JEM refusing to join Darfur peace deal were interviewed in Washington by Democracy Now. The interviewer asked what they were doing in Washington. One of the rebels replied saying they were visiting the "Darfur community". He made their appearance in Washington sound so easy, matter of fact and normal.

America is like Fort Knox when it comes to immigration procedures, security and entry visas. What do the rebels declare as their occupation, how they make a living, money they are carrying, where they are staying, what they will be doing during their visit. Holiday? Visiting friends?

After seeing and hearing what the two rebels said in the podcast interview I wondered about the number of Sudanese people living outside of the Sudan, what they were doing to help their people, and how Sudan's rebels in their nice new western style suiits afford to feed their families and pay for travels to far flung places like Slovenia, Germany, France, England, Libya, Washington, Nigeria, Eritrea. Maybe they don't think the public would be interested in such minor details. When a politician is elected we get a good idea of the source of their pay packet and expenses. Why do rebels get away with murder and appear to have diplomatic immunity? I don't get it. I'm irked that journalists don't bother reporting these aspects of the Darfur war especially when there are billions of tax dollars involved.

The following news report 'Sign of hope' for Sudan by Frederick Melo (St Paul Pioneer Press, June 4, 2006) tells of some Sudanese people living in Minnesota, USA who believe their homeland still has a chance at peace. Edited excerpt:
Dr Akec Khoc, a 55-year-old medical practitioner living in Rochester, Minn. is one of hundreds of Sudanese who fled Africa's longest-running civil war and relocated to Minnesota, leaving behind professional careers, land and family.

For some, the January 2005 peace accords have rekindled hopes of returning to their homeland and helping to rebuild. For most, however, conflict in Darfur and the halting progress in reconstructing the shattered villages of the south are overshadowing those dreams.

After leaving Sudan as a refugee in 1983, Khoc, a 6-foot-3-inch Dinka tribesman plans to return this month to take a position with the new unified government, helping in the political reunification of the north and south.

If it wasn't for his ministry work, the Rev. Mawien Ariik has little doubt he would return to those familiar lands tomorrow.

Ariik, 43, was a young man when he fled the country in 1990, leaving behind a brother and nine sisters who were settled near the family homestead in southern Sudan.

"They were in the countryside, and I was in the big city," said Ariik, who leads a small Sudanese congregation at the Zion Lutheran Church in Anoka. "So when war broke out, I was far away from them, and I couldn't get back. They remained hiding. I ran to Khartoum."

Ariik said many Sudanese now dream of returning to Sudan. But many are also fearful.

"We could go back, but everyone is waiting," said Ariik, who returned to his country in February for his mother's funeral. "None of the things that were agreed upon (in the peace accords) have been started yet. … No schools were left, no hospitals were left in the south because of the war. Towns were destroyed completely. How can I go back to a destroyed city, without a school, without water, without a hospital?"

"I've been in other war zones in Ethiopia and Eritrea and in Bosnia, but this is sort of in a class by itself in terms of the viciousness of the attacks and the vulnerability of the people," said Eric R. Markusen, a sociology professor from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, who visited the refugee camps outside Darfur in the summer of 2004.

Khoc is among those who want to return to help his people. After working for two years as a mental health counselor at a South Minneapolis group home, he and his wife moved to a modest apartment in Rochester, where they await news of his likely political appointment.

Khoc had fled Sudan for Ethiopia in 1983, and then to France in 1991 after the political situation in Ethiopia deteriorated for the south Sudanese. While in Paris, he had been a spokesman for the Sudan's People Liberation Movement (SPLM), the leading opposition group to the northern government.

In April, the SPLM nominated Khoc and 15 other south Sudanese for ambassadorial positions. As of June 1, however, the men had not been sworn in by the northern government based in Khartoum, or assigned to specific embassies.

During Ariik's church services, it's 34-year-old Akhlas Akto who sings the loudest. Like a gospel enthusiast belting out classics, the mother of four leads each hymn, sung in Arabic, and her voice carries over the beating of a tall African drum, the roll of a tambourine and the rattle of a beaded gourd shaker.

In Sudan, Akto had been a day care worker in a Lutheran church, and her two older sisters spent the better part of 20 years as secretaries in government and professional offices.

Now, one sister cleans school halls as a janitor at the University of Minnesota and the other assembles boxes at a packaging plant. Neither enjoys her work.

For many south Sudanese, adjusting to life in America has been far from easy. In Sudan, many of their countrymen had been teachers, doctors, farmers and politicians. Here, the people Ariik ministers to now work factory jobs and night shifts, wrestling with language barriers, unfamiliar industries and new cultural norms.

Limited in number relative to Somalis, Latinos and Asian immigrants, the Sudanese have scattered across small ethnic enclaves in Anoka County, Rochester, Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D., he said.

Like many south Sudanese living in Minnesota, Ariik's parents had been landed farmers, and his family lived relatively comfortable lives surrounded by dozens of cows, goats and sheep. After fleeing the war, he lived for eight years in Egypt attending a seminary, and in 1998 obtained refugee status and moved to Wisconsin.

Before long, he relocated to Anoka, where he became an inspector in an eyeglass factory.

Akto, who is homesick for Sudan, said she will remain in Minnesota, largely to see her four children educated in the U.S. But the cost and pace of American life are wearing on her, and she misses the social gatherings of her homeland.

"My (eldest) daughter wants to go back," said Akto, who worked as a classroom aide at a Head Start school for four years before being laid off on disability. "She's 18. She came here when she was 11. She says she doesn't like it over here."

Gatluak Juach is among those south Sudanese who have no plans to return to their homeland. Juach left Sudan while still a boy to live in Ethiopia for 14 years, where he became a math teacher. The 34-year-old Coon Rapids man now solders parts at an electronics factory in Brooklyn Park, and little of what he hears from his mother and brother, who still reside in south Sudan, gives him reason to think he'll go back.

His five children, ranging in age from 3 to 13, are "American," he says, and they seem even more uninterested.

"When I talk to them about Sudan, they don't understand it," he said. "When they watch the news on Darfur, they say, 'Your country's not good.' "

But others still hold out hope for their homeland.

Frederick Melo can be reached at fmelo@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2172.
Jun 3 2006 Sudan's Dinka back home after 20-year journey - 90,000 displaced southerners in Darfur, 25,000 have returned

Feb 28 2006 UN says Eritrea, Libya, Chad supply arms to Sudan's Darfur rebels and SPLM/A provided training and arms to SLM/A

May 23 2006 Sudan Tribune - Opinion piece by Mayar Mayar Kout, an IT Student, Computer Analyst at Southern New Hampshire University. Manchester, USA SPLMs Ambassadors are not advocates of al-Bashir policy: Though there are a very qualified nominees on list I think that are appropriate to the party. to honor them serve the diplomat relations here they are: ambassadors Dr. Francis Madding Deng, Dr. Akec Khoc Acieu, Dr. El-Wathing Mohammed Kameir, Professor, Steven, Wondu, Andrew, Makor thow He was nominated by Bashir's Party (NCP) Otherwise, I'd like to get people attention that we missed a great nominee, with tremendous Civil service records. He has diplomacy reputation, very skillful Spokesperson Mr. Ezekiel LD, Gatkouth from SPLM Office Washington DC. [Note, SPLM Office Washington DC, USA]

Apr 27 2006 Sudan Tribune (Khartoum) Sudanese president appoints 16 SPLM's ambassadors: The countries they will serve in as heads of Diplomatic Mission representing the Government of Southern Sudan are yet to be announced soon. Lam [Akol] did not mention to which countries the news ambassadors are appointed. SPLM ambassadors, will soon go to Khartoum to sworn in. Most of them are based in the USA. [Note, most of them are based in the USA]

Apr 29 2006 Sudan Refugees Gather for Solidarity Dinner Apr 29 in Washington, DC: The solidarity dinner, which will bring together Muslims from Northern Sudan including Darfur and Christians from Southern Sudan - formerly enemies - along with others, will host personal stories told from the perspective of a variety of Sudanese that are part of the larger Washington DC march: April 30 Rally to Stop Genocide, which they plan to attend the following day on the DC mall. The group is sponsored by non-profit groups Stop Genocide Now, Sudan Sunrise, Institute on Religion and Democracy/Church Alliance for a New Sudan, Sudan Council of Churches USA and San Francisco's Golden Gate Community Church (GGCC). - Keynote Speech John Prendergast. Closing comments - Dr. Akec Khoc (Southern)

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