Sora - a female name from South Sudan, meaning revolution.
SORA - a revolution in global awareness. A revolution of knowledge

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The Sudanese Online Research Association welcomes contributions of essays, papers and projects about Sudan and the Sudanese Diaspora. The following headings link to research papers that are published exclusively through the Sudanese Online Research Association Online Library. If you require further details about the authors please email.

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Intergenerational Conflict, Changes and resolutions within the Sudanese Community: parents vs young people, By Gatwech Puoch
**This paper was presented on 27 June 2006 at the International Consortium for Intergenerational Programs Conference, hosted by Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia - see http://conferences.vu.edu.au/icip/program.htm**

By Gatwech Puoch

Last year in January 9th, 2005, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) and the Governmnet of Sudan (GoS) concluded the 22 years old most  protracted civil war in the African continent by signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). As result of war, Sudanese migrant refugees lifestyle has enormously changed because of internal and external displacement and migration.

 

Sudanese globally underwent three generational changes, accompanied by striking shifts in socio-economic conditions. These changes are manifested in a generational split in social relations, decision-making processes that were parallelled by the new and extremely diverse cultures.

 

These changes are pivotal to the fundamental characteristic of Sudanese family structure which is an integral, representing the unity of norms and values, it is an “extended family” whereby everyone involved, parents, uncle, cousin aunt, nephews and nieces. It is boundless intergenerational social contract between different age cohorts, old, young and children.

 

Consequently, three generation groups emerged. I will examine them in an attempt to reveal the today’s challenges confronting every Sudanese family migrant, not only in Australia, but all over the world.

 

The three generations are the older people of the community, in this instance the parents; the second generation are young people and children aged between 12- 25 years old; and the third generation are the children that born during the war time or in the second country of asylum or in the country of resettlement or the ones to be born in the future up to age of 11 years old.

 

I decided to share with intergenerational conflict facing every Sudanese family, the changes and resolutions within the Sudanese Community in Australia. As a refugee migrant from Horn of Africa, it is a golden opportunity to share my experiences from an African perspective as well as my testimony as parent.

 

From my four years experience in Australia working as a settlement worker with South Eastern Region Migrant Resource Centre. I have had learnt and experienced these changes, I conducted information’s to clients, and received ones, my role is designated to provide support and assistance to the newly arrived refugee or migrant cross culturally with their initial settlement requirements and to induct and link them to access mainstream services to mention few for instance, Centrelink, Medicare … etc. In addition, I frequently, provide group information session in different topics, face-to-face casework, advice, advocacy and referral.

 

As a refugee myself and parent, I experienced and demonstrated similar mixed feeling of distress like any other parent -- if I step into their shoes, I have also the common sense of no longer sustains my responsibility as the breadwinner in the home affairs. I am perplexed and confused; my children become involved in my business and decision making. Young people misinterpreted the western freedom.

The financial support and entitlements from social security proved to be a centre of empowering children and snatching powers from parents in slow motion of give-and-take, making parents vulnerable and weak, a reciprocal sentiment of blameworthiness, guilt and self culpability.

 

To migrate or live in a foreign country is one of the fresh adventures of the southern Sudanese pro-war era. No one from southern Sudanese could envisage one day they will travel that far away from the extended family, or dream to go faraway from ancestor home land, something I could thoroughly screen all the way through the elders and parents role in Sudan, that is embody by the first generation of migrants. They are characterised as the custodians and “backbone” of the community; it is their role to sustain norms, values, language and culture. They are the source for family oral history. Reconcile conflicting parties, bless marriages and lead their communities.

 

On the other hand, as a sign of respect, elderly people are rarely called by their first names. Men and Women are called “uncle”, “Aunt” + first name/nickname. Parents did not permit their unmarried Young people (male & female) under any circumstances to leave the family home until they are married.

 

Disciplining has eventually altered from generation to generation, in the past it might involve beating (caning), smacking and skin pinching (practiced by women only in most occasions). These are acceptable and regarded as part of the child caring process.

 

Principally adults try to maintain knowledge and values and community. They struggle to transmit this culture to the next generation. This is the stage of intergenerational cultural transmission that rigorously disturbed by two decades of war. These are the noble norms and tradition that has shaped accordingly as a result of the excessive movement and displacement of southern Sudanese migrants.

 

Young People:

Second Generation (12 – 25 yrs old);

The two decades of war in Sudan, vehemently have changed everything, parents and their children fled their home country of origin for security, food and shelter to the neighbour countries. They cross the borders, walking considerable distances to settle in the new country of asylum in the refugees’ camps, Kakuma camp in northern Kenya, Dimu and Panyadum in Ethiopia are the best examples, Uganda, and Egypt.

 

Young people from war torn have little to share and carry on in reverence to traditional and norms; the methods of transmission are indistinct. Young people adopted and incorporated the culture of violence were the power of guns replaced the contemporary conflict resolution strategies.

 

However, viewing the impact of war from another perspective, the full ramifications of war on young people is grown of deepening the “culture of Violence”, the tangible example exactly translate by One of the Nuer of southern Sudan.

 

 Wutnyang Gatakek pointed remarkably in one of his public speeches stated that “the smoke and sound of the guns has caused the youth to become crazy and to behave very badly towards you elders”.

 

However, it is not only Nuer elders or senior men, the issue is the ethical and social powers directly threatened by convergence of gun, but all women and girls of all ages. It is now a worried issue among many Sudanese when this culture of gun relinquishes and be rightfully forgotten.

 

On this score it is disturbing to be known as substantial fact during SPLA era in the early 80’s and formally through out the SPLA 22 years old war. In the graduation ceremony of a new battalion, recruits are taught the “graduation song”. The song is completely confirming how the war dramatised and orientated young people to the culture of violence, killing legalising this attitude to any freedom fighter.

The graduation Song in Arabic narrates, usually sung by the successful trainees upon the formal bestowal or conferral of their guns runs as follow:

     

                                    “Even your mother, give her a bullet!

                             Even your father, give him a bullet!

 Your gun is your food; your gun is your wife”

 

Blatantly, this naked type of violence culture exposed to young people, for instance among those, the widely known as Lost boys of Sudan” or “child soldier” and other characteristics breeding of the war. Eventually, everything has changed, values and norms, no transmission of inheritance of the precious traditions to sustain its existence and pass them on to the next generation.

 

Therefore, when young people fled or deserted the combatant zone to neighbour country of asylum or being camped in one of the refugee encampment, this behaviour doesn’t change.

 

Young people integrated into all those sorts of cultures, either as a result of conscription and forceful recruitment in the SPLA as a child soldiers or forced by circumstances to voluntarily join the movement for the sake of liberty and freedom.

 

In the country of asylum:

 

Unlike the first generation, Young people and children, encounter some difficulties to adjust themselves, either in the refugee camps or elsewhere. They try to pick every pity-tiny or pities without appropriate calculation – this is completely different from the original culture. They try to learn the language to ease the process of socialisation, making friends, embracing the “new culture” and abandoning the culture of the country of origin. In the new country there is a hybrid culture that incorporates aspects of both old and new. Here the process of immigration and resettlement began to divulge.

 

As many migrants have had highly disruptive lifestyle, pre-arrival experiences will severely influence the way people perceive the resettlement process. Its send mixed messages and feeling, fears of taking away children is well profound and eminent common amongst migrants, thinking of improving or lean the language skills of respective country of resettlement, which might enhance the integration process in the new community, from my experience its proved to be the challenging factor hindering the smooth communiqué for mingling to become an effective member of this society. The pre-arrival influences to settle in Australia are strain; frustrating waiting period of application outcome, making a conscious decision to come to Australia, started to solicit and collect data about Australia or any country all over the globe, history of violence, loss and grieve, trauma and torture, separation from family members and friends, ingredients of physical and nutrition needs.

 

In Australia; (Country of resettlement):

Prior refugee initial arrival in Australia, many families manage to overcome the rigidity and hardship experiences they went through over the decades of war. People quickly develop incredible resilience from their experiences. However, for many, resettlement is a cultural shock”, and therefore the following key issues and changes are confronted by migrants, physical change, different climate and environment, perplexity and bewilderment, predicament of not knowing anyone, lack of effective communication with the new language that affects the ability to socialise, form friendships, and develop social connectedness, limited space for young people and children to go to school for study and socialising.

 

Challenges and change of roles:

In Australia, newly arrived young people came with high levels of expectation and dreams, and they quickly want to fulfil these imaginations and expectations in short period as soon as possible. Migrants and refugees families instantly parents, face many challenges and complex alliance environments.

Young people and their families lose ties, loss of self worth occurs because of power shifts observed (income security), with parents losing dignity and status , parents become dependent on children to access the services (due to language barriers), children become involved in “Adult” business and decision making, misinterpretation of western world freedom, young people want to leave home after the age of 16 years, unemployment, depression, anxiety, family violence, children’s taking on power imbalances, has significant long-term consequences for family dynamics, this leads to  the present intergenerational conflict, parents Vs children.

 

Culture Shock:

Strain and anxiety resulting from contact with new culture

Feelings of lost and dreams are not accomplished;

Confusion results from loss of accustomed culture and norms.

Stages of culture shock in clued feeling of euphoria about the exciting new country and culture, Failure to succeed leads to extreme dissatisfaction with the host culture. Period of psychological transition from comparing new and previous experiences – home values to the host-home values, individuals begin to understand the host culture and feel more in touch with values of that country, They begin forming more balanced views whereby the host culture is viewed as offering both positive and negative alternatives.

At the end individuals return to their home country and experience reverse culture shock

 

 

Third generation:

Ages from unborn child to 11 years old.

This generation includes children aged between 0-11 years old.  They are either born overseas or in the host country - Australia or elsewhere. They have advantages and disadvantages compared to the other two generations. 

Advantages

§         Language fluency

§         Easily transformation into new culture

§         Assimilate easily into the society, “feeling at home”.

§         Full loyalty to their new home

§         Intimacy with and loyalty to the country of origin is shallow. 

Disadvantages (to parents or older generation)

 

·         Loss of language - the “mother tongue”

·         Not understanding the norms and values that parents want them to transmit and inherit

·         Disconnection from the community origin

Negotiating Acculturation:

 

This is the phase where a person from a different culture group strives to incorporate the cultural values and life skills of their country of origin into the lifestyle and values of the new country. The incorporation may entail keeping old ways and rejecting the new or vice versa, or amalgamating the two.

 

To conclude, allow me to share my testimony as a father who underwent intergeneration conflict as a practical illustration of this paper narration. Five years ago in year 2000, when I first arrived in Australia from Egypt where spent 9 years as asylum seeker with my eight children. Prior our arrival my older children in their early 20’s put a bundle of pressure on me and my wife, insisting repeatedly to have their finances and move out from family home, the notion that we strongly refused because of our conservative Christian faith and cultural values that we want to sustain as we aforementioned in this paper. It’s hard to capture, it took us two years struggle to take comprehend with the idea, I felt utterly frustrated and depressed, its triggered unnecessary disease hypertension (high blood pressure). One day we held a secret meeting with my wife and our older daughter who is also a partaking in the – moving – out- proposal! With the promise that I will provide the utmost support to secure alternative accommodation for the to let privately, which I did using my job networking skills. On the day, we surprise them, my expectation was that they will rejoice and celebrate, in contrast they stunt, but I assure them that I am series. They were trying to ignore the idea, but I again assured them that they should move out as soon as possible, I am series… because I want to use the room they occupied for computer and study.

Two years after experiencing bitterness, struggling to meet their obligations, bills and other, the shamelessly came through the back door approaching mum to initiate apologetic meeting with me, we met it was a controversial and challenging meeting for them, heads bow, shame and vulnerability were the cloud overshadowing the meeting. I felt more confidence; I restore part of distorted image within the community. So it was an opportunity to spelt out my instructions likely military orders, no one should come home after ten night, TV should switch off at ten, no movies of sexual immorality of that brand to be watch in home tv!, soccer, footy ok!,  ….. etc.

 

This is how difficult the incorporation of a culture of origin with “new” ways of living in the host country is all about; it is neither motionless nor fixed in time. These are the pros and cons of the new life style in the country of settlement, because young people struggle to accommodate the country of origin’s values and norms in the context of the new values and norms of the host country.  The cultural adjustment they undergo is complex and complicated.

Conflict of cultures occurs between young people and their parents or elderly people of the community who, with unreserved persistence, are trying hard to impose the values and norms of the country of origin.  The confrontations eventually lead to antagonism and rejection from young people, and community elders view this as a rebellion that creates “intergenerational conflict”. Therefore, intergration is required to manage and incorporate the intergenerational conflict.




affiliated with the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning Program, Australia
associated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Peace Education Program, Kenya & Uganda
sole distributor outside of Africa of the Sudan Mirror Newspaper, Sudan
partnered with the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP)