News

Shepparton’s Sudanese community in shock

By John Lewis

Shepparton’s Sudanese community is in shock following recent outbreaks of violence against protesters in the capital Khartoum, a community leader has said.

Young Sudanese civilians took to the streets of the capital this month to call for the ruling military council to hand over power following the toppling of dictator Omar al-Bashir in April.

Protests were reportedly met with violence, where more than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded and raped.

Shepparton Sudanese community leader Haroun Kafi said following the violent crackdown, the military council had shut down communication networks causing even more angst among Shepparton community members.

‘‘They cut off the internet and it’s now become hard for us to follow what’s going on. We are feeling very stressed and traumatised,’’ Mr Kafi said.

He has spoken on the phone to his two sisters, who told him of lootings and rapes by roaming militias in Khartoum.

He supported the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan, which was involved in fighting in the northern state.

‘‘They are looking for a peaceful solution — and they are calling for a separation of religion from the government,’’ he said.

He said during Mr al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, racism and religious discrimination increased.

‘‘Sudan became one of the cleverest countries in knowing how to use religion and racism to divide people,’’ he said.

Mr Kafi arrived in Australia in 2005 after fleeing violence and persecution.

‘‘The racism is based on your skin colour — lighter skin is considered superior, dark skin like mine is inferior,’’ he said.

Mr Kafir said Mr al-Bashir was wanted by the International Criminal Court for charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in western Sudan in the 2000s.

He said northern Sudanese people were hopeful a civilian government would take control after Mr al-Bashir’s ousting in April.

‘‘They had a dream that things would change once al-Bashir was gone. But now the army has taken over and refused to give up power,’’ he said.

He encouraged the people of Shepparton and all Sudanese people in Australia to speak up and call on the Australian Government to pressure the United Nations into solving the power struggle.

‘‘Please support us and help us pass our message to the Australian Government — Sudan needs a civilian government.’’