Sudanese refugees welcome vote

AS THE landmark independence vote in Sudan looks to deliver an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote for the secession of south Sudan, refugees in Coffs Harbour are starting to consider the possibility of returning to their homeland.

“This is a very exciting moment,” Mary Marial said.

“We have been waiting for so long – we want to be free. I wake up every morning and turn on SBS and Al Jazeera to see the latest news.”

Ms Marial, who has been living in Coffs Harbour for nine years, said returning to Sudan would depend on security.

Her husband, Apach Mapieu, said the road ahead for the new country would be difficult.

“They are starting from scratch – there are no schools, health services are inadequate. Returning too soon would jeopardise the future of our children. They are very comfortable here in Australia.”

Another refugee, Kachuol Dhuol, said the secession meant refugees could return home but living conditions in Australia were much better.

“I was a little boy when I ran away 24 years ago.

“I have been back once since but I would love to go back to see my family again – my mother, brother and sisters are all there.”

Ms Marial said visiting Sudan was also very sad because so many people had died.

“There has been so much death and suffering, we have lost so many of our wise old people. But we are also very happy the world now knows about our situation.”

Mr Mapieu said Sudanese refugees had been well cared for in Australia.

“The government paid for our bus fares to Sydney to register and then to vote – that makes us feel very valued,” he said.

Daughter Evelyn said she was not very interested in returning to Sudan.

“When we visited in 2007, I had to sweep the floor and go and get water for the house – it’s not like here where there are taps.”

The first war in Sudan began in 1954, there was a period of peace between 1972 and 1983, then violence erupted again and lasted until 2005. Two million people have died.

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