Thousands of our supporters have joined our call for stronger U.S. action on South Sudan. And our actions got the attention of the State Department.

A key component of our work has been getting the voices of the Southern Sudanese Diaspora heard. And last week we were able to coordinate a meeting of the Diaspora community with the State Department for a meeting with the Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth.

In this meeting, the Diaspora community was given a chance to voice their concerns, hopes and recommendations for how the United States, along with the Diaspora, can help with the current crisis. As they said in the meeting, “We worked hard for the referendum and independence of South Sudan and now we have to work hard for the peace to sustain the dream.”

See why the Diaspora are critical to peacebuilding in South Sudan.

Beyond asking for a voice in the conversation, they offered many ideas on how to move forward with negotiations.

There were clear and passionate calls for greater representation beyond the two warring parties in the negotiations. Wider representation is needed not only for different perspectives, but for stronger acceptance of the negotiated outcomes.

In terms of having dialogue among the different ethnic groups, it has to be broader. It has to include other ethnicities, there are over60 other groups in South Sudan and they will be part of the solution. There must be a national dialogue that is inclusive, other ethnicities, other political parties, members of civil society, women’s groups, Diaspora groups all must be part of the talks. If the talks are too narrow in representation, the results will be short lived.

-Dr. Laura Beny, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School

And there were clear demands for greater representation of women:

If women were given a chance to be part of the peace negotiations, the process would go much smoother and they would contribute ideas that would help bring a resolution. They are the ones most suffering from the violence and they will rally for peace to prevail.

– Robecca Thor, Alliance for South Sudanese in Diaspora

Many voices urged the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from the conflict, a position taken by the United States just days after the meetings. While several participants noted the positive influence of Uganda in stopping some of the violence, the risk of drawing neighboring countries into the conflict is seen as too great for the forces to stay.

Beyond what is being done inside of South Sudan, members of the Diaspora agreed that there is a critical role for them to play here at home: stopping the rampant hate speech and inflammatory remarks on the internet.

This has something to do with us, the Southern Sudanese people. The violence isn’t only from the ones carrying the guns, some are using words of violence on the internet. If you stand on the side of peace, please do not contribute to the violence.

– Rev. Francis Chan of the South Sudanese Community in Des Moines, Iowa

By no means do the Diaspora speak with one voice on all of the complex issues now facing South Sudan. There are divisions among the various communities and continued dialogue among the Diaspora is critical. Some of the most critical divisions concern differing views of the continuation of the Kiir government as well as what a reconciliation process should look like going forward. But drawing these voices together is a critical step to finding a solution needed to bring peace to South Sudan.

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