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Wafa Saeed and a few other Sudanese Coloradans are hosting an event on Friday, May, 19, 2023, to bring attention to the war in Sudan. The Sudan Humanitarian Relief Dinner aims to demand that local politicians take a public stance against the war in Sudan, help people who have been displaced by the violent conflict and find ways to get humanitarian aid into the country at a much larger scale and swifter pace. (Wafa Saeed, Contributed)

Sudanese Coloradans will meet Friday evening with a group of local politicians to demand that they take a public stance against the war in Sudan, help people who have been displaced by the violent conflict and find ways to get humanitarian aid into the country at a much larger scale and swifter pace.

At the meeting, Sudanese Coloradans are also expected to ask local politicians to do more to speed up the refugee resettlement process.

“That is something that Colorado can provide,” said Wafa Saeed, one of the organizers of the event. “If we’re going to be a state that welcomes refugees, this is a situation where we need to stand up and actually be about what we say we’re about. Any type of aid that can be provided to those families is needed.”

Seven politicians have confirmed they, or a representative, plan to attend the Sudan Humanitarian Relief Dinner, set for 6 p.m. Friday at The Summit Event Center in Aurora. Any member of the public who is interested in helping to find ways to support people in Sudan is encouraged to RSVP on the event’s webpage but no one will be turned away, Saeed said.

The event is led by a few Sudanese community leaders, but is not affiliated with any official organization, she said. 

The event follows the group’s meeting last week in Denver with a representative from Sen. Michael Bennet’s office to talk about how the war in Sudan is affecting families globally, including some in Colorado.

Abubaker Masha Maleeh, a Colorado man, died in Sudan last month after he was caught in crossfire shortly after the war began. 

Maleeh, his wife and kids went back to Sudan last month to visit family, Saeed said.

When the fighting broke out, he and his family decided to drive to a safer area, but when they arrived at a checkpoint, the Rapid Support Forces began shooting at Maleeh’s car and two other vehicles, said Khalid Masha Maleeh, Maleeh’s son.

“Sudan is going through it right now,” he said earlier this week. “Ukraine received an immense amount of support, but when it’s an African country, no one cares. That’s why sometimes I’m reluctant to do interviews because, the last interview, no one really cared.”

“Everyone has their foot in this war,” he continued. “It’s World War III in my homeland. Honestly, I just want publicity and I want people to know what’s going on over there and for aid to reach (Sudan).” 

Maleeh lived in Colorado for almost 20 years, Saeed said, and his wife and kids still live in the state. 

“We were able to work with the embassies to get the family back. So his wife and daughters are back,” Saeed said. “But he went there to visit family, and he was killed for nothing. I think the message all around for us is, this problem isn’t just a Sudanese problem. This is all of our problem.”

In 2019, there were about 10,000 families in Colorado from Sudan and South Sudan, according to a poll conducted by Saeed and other members of the Sudanese American Public Affairs Association in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2021 five-year American Community Survey estimated there were 2,140 people living in Colorado who were born in Sudan, mostly living in Arapahoe County and Denver, Douglas, El Paso, and Logan counties.

No matter what the official count is, Saeed said, many Sudanese and South Sudanese people in Colorado are grieving from afar.

The conflict in Sudan should be ringing more alarm bells, Saeed said, yet Friday’s event is only one of two public forums she knows about statewide to bring awareness about the crisis and find ways to help people in her native country.

The fighting erupted in Sudan in mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and a paramilitary group led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, or Little Mohammed.

The men are former allies who worked together in 2019 to overthrow Sudan’s brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country for three decades.

But as Sudan began its long-awaited transition to civilian and more democratic rule, Hemedti and his paramilitary forces refused to be integrated into the Sudanese army, sparking conflict that erupted into bloodshed. 

Many in Sudan say the conflict is a matter of two men grasping to retain power, wealth and influence.

Now, Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and its neighboring city Obdurman have devolved into a war zone. At least 676 people have been killed, more than 5,576 people have been injured, more than 200,000 people have fled to neighboring countries and at least 736,200 people have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

An estimated 25 million people — more than half the population of Sudan — need humanitarian aid and protection, the highest number ever in the country’s history, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday.

That same day, the U.N. also said it needed a record $3 billion to deliver aid to people in Sudan.

“I haven’t seen anything locally about this,” Saeed said. “We saw maybe one or two stories about our community member that passed away, but in regard to how much this can affect other communities and how much this is affecting Sudan, there hasn’t been any talk about that.”

Saeed said she hopes Friday night’s meeting can give Coloradans an opportunity to sit down together and figure out how to effectively help families in Sudan while also helping humanity overall in Africa. 

“We want it to be that kind of conversation. This is going to be the first time (since the war began) that so many representatives actually came to the Sudanese community and introduced themselves,” she said. “We want it to be something where they’re getting to know us. We’re here. We’re people. We’re citizens. But we still have roots in Sudan and this is still affecting our community and it very well could affect America.”

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Tatiana FlowersEquity and general assignment reporter

Tatiana Flowers is the equity and general assignment reporter for the Colorado Sun. She has covered crime and courts plus education and health in Colorado, Connecticut, Israel and Morocco. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, intense exercise, working as a local DJ, and live music...