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Deng Deng Nhial Addresses Sudanese Community in Dallas

8 January 2011

Deputy Head of Mission of the Government of Southern Sudan Mission to the USA, Deng Deng Nhial, attended a Referendum Prayer Meeting today in Dallas Texas at the Upendo Church in Garland. Following more than an hour of prayer, a Sudanese lunch prepared by members of the Sudanese congregation that meets at Upendo, and two other speakers, Deng commented on post-referendum Southern Sudan. His address was engaging and he was quite charismatic. He gave a cliffs notes version of the history of Sudan (but in a way that seemed more meaningful than the typical refrain of decades of war and millions of deaths) and throughout his talk he would make jokes (usually in a language other than English, but I’m sure they were jokes given the great laughter that followed them).

He quoted US President John F. Kennedy in his address, the famous directive to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” He called on the Sudanese in the audience to engage in development, that development in Southern Sudan was a collective responsibility. He also said that voting was one way to ensure that development would happen (and that the ills of society — tribalism, sectionalism, regionalism, etc. — could be averted). He said,

You have the power to vote people into office and you have the power to vote people out of office. THAT is democracy.

He called on the Sudanese in the church to extend their participation beyond a party to celebrate the expected vote for secession. He called on them to participate in “nation-building.”

Following Deng’s address, a few members of the community working at the referendum center gave a demonstration of the voting process and passed out sample ballots. Instructions were first given at length in English and then abbreviated in Arabic. They even took questions from the audience. Overall, the event lasted 6 hours. I don’t know how anthropologists manage to do participant observation. I’m exhausted.


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