South Sudan concert draws on personal experience

Since December 2013, internal conflict in the African nation of South Sudan has left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes and forced into refugee camps. In response, St. Olaf groups such as the Scholars of Courageous Resistance and the Political Awareness Committee have been trying to raise awareness and gather funds to help those in refugee camps. These efforts culminated in the Humans of South Sudan benefit concert, which took place in the Lion’s Pause on April 17. All proceeds went to South Sudan’s Pinedoek refugee camp.

The evening began with a presentation that detailed the horrors of the conflict in South Sudan as well as the apathetic response on the part of the United Nations. This was followed by a variety of musical performances, including visiting hip-hop artist D.Glove and several original rap songs by Nick Kulla ’14 and Gunnar Raasch ’15. The Carleton College Knightingales, a female a cappella group, also performed.

One of the more striking moments of the evening was delivered by John Buay Tut ’14, one of the event organizers, who recounted his personal experiences with the violence in South Sudan. Tut was born in the city of Malakal in northeast South Sudan, which is one of the states currently experiencing serious violence. He spoke of similar violence that occurred in the 1990s and forced his family to flee the country.

“My own personal experience is being displaced from my home in about 1995 and having to subsequently move from hiding in the bush to U.N. transportation envoys to the nearest refugee camp, Pinedoek refugee camp, which is over the border in Ethiopia. And that was where my family spent five years of our lives until I was about nine years old, when my family was granted resettlement to the United States,” Tut said.

Tut also spoke of the joy he felt when he was able to return to South Sudan for the first time in 2012. Unfortunately, violence again broke out in his home country the following year. South Sudan gained independence in 2011 but now faces serious fragmentation within the SPLM, the majority party in the new government. This fragmentation, combined with ethnic tensions within the country, resulted in the current civil war.

“For the first half of [the outbreak of civil war in December 2013], I was sad. I felt so down. My efforts seemed like they were not going anywhere. When I tried to talk to people about it, it seemed like people just didn’t care, but you get to a point where you say, ‘I have a roof over my head, I have all this food in me, what do I have to be sad about?’ And so that’s when I started to make the effort, try to get on as many platforms as I could and talk about this as much as possible,” Tut said.

Tut emphasized the importance of activism among American citizens since the United States has such a major influence on global politics.

“The fact of the matter is that nothing changes unless people in First World countries like the United States are upset about it and they pressure their governments to do something about it,” he said.

Tut encouraged students to visit the website of an N.G.O. called United to End Genocide and sign a petition which encourages the United Nations to send more troops and supplies to the people of South Sudan.

Photo Credit: Solvejg Wastvedt/MANITOU MESSENGER