Today, the We Want Peace organization is holding rallies at Sudanese embassies in Canada, Oslo, Spain, and the UK, as well as Sudan and South Sudan themselves. The goal is to raise awareness of the conflicts that are ongoing in Sudan and South Sudan a year after the country was split in two. Emmanuel Jal, a musician and activist, organized the rallies to try to ensure that areas of Sudan and South Sudan do not fall back into deadly fighting.
Jal is committed to rallying for peace because he knows first-hand the horrors of war. As a child in Southern Sudan, he was recruited by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and spent five years fighting as a child soldier. He says "the war that claimed 2.5 million people in South Sudan has reached the core of my family. All my aunties including my mum were claimed by the war all my uncles too ... I was recruited as a child soldier at the age of 7 and taught how to fight".
Now Jal is encouraging others to become "Peace Soldiers" by attending today's rallies and sharing the message on social media. If you're on Twitter and you want to support the cause, you can tweet using the hashtag #WWP2012.
The primary goal of the We Want Peace rallies is to encourage increased humanitarian assistance and civilian protection in high-conflict areas like the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile Region and Darfur. In a press release, Jal states that Sudan and South Sudan "are still in dispute over resources and other unresolved issues relating to the division of the country", and expresses his belief that "we must put a spotlight on Sudan".
The first rally took place yesterday, with a meeting at Lafayette Park in Washington, DC. Today in Canada, a rally is planned from 12-2 pm eastern time at Queen's Park in Toronto, with other rallies taking place throughout the day in London, Oslo, and Madrid.
As South Sudan celebrates one year as an independent country, the Guardian has a round-up of the current situation in the two Sudans. Loss of oil revenue following a shutdown in production in January is leading to disputes between the two countries, and inflation has hit 75 percent, driving up the prices of food and other commodities. At the same time, border clashes have led to 110,000 people being displaced, with the UNHCR estimating South Sudan's refugee population at 211,454.
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that South Sudan's president Salva Kiir has vowed to confront the corruption he says is plaguing his country in an effort to make South Sudan "independent economically".
Below is a video Jal made explaining the intent behind the rallies. It's introduced by George Clooney, who visited Sudan in March this year and has lent his support to the We Want Peace movement:
Emmanuel was on the program last season. Here he is talking about losing faith and the healing power of music:
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