‘I’m Tired of Lo​​sing My People’: South Sudan’s Refugees On Four Years of Independence

The world’s newest country remains stuck in a cycle of violence that has displaced more than 2 million people. But its citizens have not lost hope for the future, The Niles report.

Sudanese girl
A girl stands among cattle at a camp in Nyal, Unity state, South Sudan in February. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Against a backdrop of violence and civil war, ongoing since 2013, South Sudan’s residents prepare to celebrate the fourth anniversary of their independence.

In 2011, full of hope for the future, the country seceded from neighbouring Sudan, a move that many hoped would bring an end to the conflict which had raged between southern rebels and Omar al-Bashir’s Khartoum government for more than two decades.

But two years in, conflict erupted. Soldiers loyal to president Salva Kiir began fighting those serving his rival former vice-president Riek Machar. Thousands have died, and more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Fought across ethnic lines – Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s Nuer – the conflict has torn apart the wave of promise that brought the country into being.

But in the refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda, displaced South Sudanese civilians living in the fast-expanding Nyumanzi camp haven’t given up hope for their home country, and share what they’d like to see change.

Paom Amum

“Do I even have the right to say a word? Won’t I get killed or arrested? All I can say is that I don’t care about who leads anymore, all I want is a good life. I am tired of losing my people, property and always being on the move from place to place seeking refuge. I love my country and I wish it the best.”

Manyang Gabriel

Manyang Gabriel

“Good governance is what I want. Good schools, health and water – not a name of a leader.”

Kuch Deng

“What South Sudanese need is rehabilitation, not just power struggles and leadership. But from what I see here in the camp, a majority of youth don’t want to work or develop, even if there are opportunities. If there be a new government then they should focus on programmes that teach the citizens skills.

“To me, this is what matters, not the leadership.”

Sarah Lomoro

“I don’t like the current government but I can’t say why because I don’t want to get a bullet in my head.”

Machar Elijah

Machar Elijah
Machar Elijah: ‘I don’t want to take sides because I’m not a tribalist’. Photograph: The Niles

“If I say Salva Kiir should rule, Machar will keep fighting and if I say Machar rules, who knows, Salva Kiir may also take arms and enter the bush to fight Machar off the top seat.

“All I want is peace, I don’t want to take sides because I’m not a tribalist. I love all the leaders as long as they advocate for peace.”

Matthew Dobuol, general secretary, SPLM-IO mission to the US

Matthew Dobuol
Matthew Dobuol: ‘The current regime is on the brink of failure’. Photograph: The Niles

“The current regime is on the brink of failure. The Juba regime has failed the people of South Sudan from day one when it started to massacre innocent civilians... There will be no election under [Salva Kiir’s] leadership and if that happens I definitely wouldn’t come back for it, as I’m a target due to my ethnicity.

“The current regime is a Dinka regime. It does not represent the diversity of South Sudan.”

James Faisal Ajak

James Faisal Ajak
James Faisal Ajak and his brother.: ‘As long as they resort to peace, let them lead’. Photograph: The Niles

“Even after these two leaders have killed many people and left me and my people roaming here in the camps, I can’t say they should not lead. As long as they resort to peace, let them lead. I just want peace.”
Source: theguardian.com

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