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South Sudanese In Kansas City Greet Vice President With Joy

Laura Ziegler

A hotel ballroom in Independence, Missouri, packed with local South Sudanese erupted into applause, song and ululations Saturday as their vice president entered the room. 

Vice President James WaniIgga was swept up into a spontaneous parade, greeting men and women with outstretched hands and warm embraces.

Some had traveled from as far as Minnesota and Iowa to hear what the vice president had to say about the most recent peace treaty, signed in August, between the four-year-old South Sudanese government and rebel forces.

Igga outlined some of the key provisions, including a list of new capitol cities connected to newly created states. South Sudanese refugees in the United States come from many different parts of South Sudan and many different ethnic groups. They see this type of decentralized government as a positive step toward an end to ethnic violence in their newly established nation. 

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR
The South Sudanese Vice President came to Kansas City fresh from talks at the United Nations.

But local South Sudanese elder AwanRiakAter, who has a doctorate degree in public administration, says many see the agreement as a compromise. It includes more for the rebel opposition than many would like, he said, but they’re supporting it in order to protect family and friends back home.

“The conditions in it are not acceptable,” Ater said, “but we have decided to support peace so we can save the lives of the innocent that are involved."

Another community leader, AguekRiak, a casino manager in Kansas City, says the treaty provides much needed hope.

“Our families are suffering. We are very concerned,” he said. "We are very happy this peace has been signed finally and we hope the peace will hold so people can renew their lives.”

When his city was attacked by rebel forces last February, Riak says his father- in- law and his brother-in- law were killed.

The United Nations reports more than 2 million people have been displaced by internal fighting in South Sudan, and that over 4 million suffer from malnutrition and hunger.

Kansas City has one of the largest Sudanese communities in the nation.

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