Editor's note: This is a guest post contributed by Kuoth Wiel, a South Sudanese actor and model, has a key role in the forthcoming Reese Witherspoon film, "The Good Lie"
As South Sudanese, we worked hard to persevere through two civil wars. Now, our chance to have freedom and prosperity is threatened by political tension and ethnic division. When we achieved our independence in 2011 we celebrated for days to commemorate how much we had lost in the struggle. It was an emotional and proud moment. I finally saw my mother get closure for the brothers, sisters, children and husband she lost while fighting the war. The events that have unfolded in the past month have had a tremendous impact on that closure. As the youth of South Sudan we are now faced with a heavy burden. We are the future of this young country. The freedom and prosperity promised to us is now threatened by to the unstable political system governing South Sudan.
I was born in Ethiopia as a refugee. Now, after a month of conflict in my home country, feelings of grief and displacement are once again fluttering in my mind. As South Sudanese children of war, what we went through is forever ingrained in us. Knowing that your people are dying and suffering is the worst thing one can feel. Even today, I have family members who are still missing in South Sudan. The only thing we can do is pray for their safety and safe return. I feel for those that I do not have a personal connection with as well. We all share a common story: being South Sudanese.
Just two and a half years into our independence, our leaders have failed us. Now, we are all paying for what they have done. My most grave concern is for the women and children of the country. Many defenseless women and children have fled to the U.N. peacekeeping compound. Others have crossed the border into Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, our young men are doing the majority of the fighting: sacrificial lambs at the altar of our leaders' egos. The majority of our population is young people, and they are now dueling in a war of our leaders' ideologies.
I worry that, just like the last civil war, our women and children's views are going to be overlooked. The perspective of women and children needs to be given the same amount of attention as the men at the table in Addis Ababa. Most of the politicians who are in charge of negotiations do not have to worry about the suffering of their families because they can afford to take them to safety. If there is not a voice to raise these concerns, the worst is still yet ahead of us. The most vulnerable population needs to have representation among those negotiating what will happen to the country after the turmoil has ended.
Many in South Sudan's diaspora community have been taking action. However, we suffer from limited information and resources. I want to use my voice to advocate for the innocent lives lost on a daily basis. This is a sensitive matter. It is undeniable that innocent people are now dying in ethnically targeted killings. Human rights groups are already investigating the crimes that have unfolded, but more needs to be done. Justice needs to be carried out. Those responsible must be held accountable.We have seen what happened to Rwanda and it was not the fate we envisioned for our country.
Our leaders have done their best to take advantage of the current situation. As long as there is division within the tribes of South Sudan, peace will be hard to achieve. Important issues such as nation building and reconciliation were pushed under the rug when they should have been put in the forefront. I can only hope and pray for my country. No one will win with continued fighting on the battlefield. The peace talks are the only piece of hope that we have left. As a citizen of my country it is my duty to do something to ease the suffering of my countrymen. This issue will take time to get resolved, but I know we will get out of it. We have faced hell before and we will get out of it as long as we continue to push for peace in South Sudan.