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Immigrants and refugees rally for peace, amid growing violence in Sudan

Kylie Ambu

“As a displaced person, this has to stop. We were born in the war. Our families cannot continue to be displaced for the next 20 years or 50 years. So, we are here for advocacy," Sudanese refugee Apoul Anyijong said.

The people of Sudan have seen a month of fighting, after violence broke out in mid-April between the country’s army and a paramilitary group, Rapid Support Forces. The power struggle has led to a humanitarian crisis, the U.N. Health Agency reporting more than 600 deaths and hundreds of thousands being displaced.

Thousands of miles away in West Michigan, more than a dozen immigrants and refugees from across Africa gathered on Friday evening to stand in solidarity and push for peace. The event, which was held in the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, was hosted by A Glimpse of Africa. The group advocates for and connects African refugees and immigrants, addressing needs and disparities in the greater Grand Rapids area.

“For immigrants and refugees, we have two lives. We have our home in Michigan that we love and we call home, but we also have another life, because we have half of our loved ones in the other countries. So, I wanted to make sure people in Sudan don’t feel alone,” organizer Fridah Kanini said.

For Sudanese refugees, like Apoul Anyijong, the ongoing violence has been a frustrating reminder of why many were forced to leave home.

“I’m a victim of war that was happening in Sudan for the past 50 years. We got separated about 17-20 years ago. Today we are going back to the same scenario that people are fighting in the middle of the capital,” Anyijong said. “As a displaced person, this has to stop. We were born in the war. Our families cannot continue to be displaced for the next 20 years or 50 years. So, we are here for advocacy.”

Anyijong previously lived in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city, which has been bombarded by conflict between the warring factions.

Mohamed Ali Mohamed, a Sudanese immigrant, told WGVU he has been relying on friends and family still in Sudan for updates.

“Hospitals are lacking necessities right now. There are cases of rape. There is a lot of crisis going on right now. We hope that we can reach a peace agreement or ceasefire,” Mohamed said.

As of May 11th, the warring parties have yet to agree to a ceasefire. However, the U.S. State Department said in a statement that representatives of the two forces had signed a declaration recognizing their responsibilities “to facilitate humanitarian action to meet the emergency needs of civilians.”

The statement also noted that future talks would focus on arranging an effective ceasefire of up to approximately ten days, to facilitate humanitarian efforts.

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