Laura Ziegler / KCUR

A hotel ballroom in Independence, Missouri, packed with local South Sudanese erupted into applause, song and ululations Saturday as their vice president entered the room. 

Vice President James Wani Igga was swept up into a spontaneous parade, greeting men and women with outstretched hands and warm embraces.

Some had traveled from as far as Minnesota and Iowa to hear what the vice president had to say about the most recent peace treaty, signed in August, between the four-year-old South Sudanese government and rebel forces.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Thousands of miles from renewed violence in South Sudan, Sudanese residents of Kansas City are trying stay on top of the rapidly changing news from their homeland and learn what they can about family and friends.

Kansas City has one of the largest Sudanese communities in the country, mainly refugees from decades of brutal civil war. It was almost incomprehensible when fighting broke out over a political dispute among differing tribes in the new Southern Sudanese capital of Juba last month.

Reunited For The First Time

Southern Sudanese wait in line in Omaha last Sunday to vote in Sudanese independence election. Photo Lual Deng Akoon

Kansas City, Missouri – There are more Southern Sudanese living in the Kansas City area than anywhere in the United States except Nebraska.

So many from this area were ready to cast ballots when voting began in Sudan, and among refugees around the world, in last weeks historic election to create an independent Southern Sudan.

On weekend evenings, Southern Sudanese play dominoes, cards, and watch the news from Sudan at a downtown community center in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Laura Ziegler

Kansas City, Missouri – Several thousand Southern Sudanese immigrants in and around Kansas City are trying desperately to take part part in a referendum next month half way across the world. Sudanese will vote on whether Southern Sudan will break away and become its own nation.

The country's Muslim majority in the North has waged war on the indigenous and Christian minorities in the South for years.

Millions have been killed, or left the country as refugees.