fr. Federico Gandolfi OFM
SOUTH SUDAN: PORTRAIT OF A CIVIL WAR REFUGEE
24 February 2016 – (By Richard Nield - 24 Feb 2016 - www.aljazeera.com) - 'Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people ... I will never forget it as long as I live.'
For the five days leading up to December 20, 2013, South Sudanese government soldiers from the Dinka tribe went from house to house killing members of the Nuer tribe in what quickly turned into a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Two years ago, Juba resident Gabriel Gatluak Dak Yau, a Nuer, fled South Sudan for the safety of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He recalls the events of those dark days in Juba, and explains why he is making plans to return to his home country.
I will never forget 2013 in my life. I was in Juba on December 15 when the soldiers came. Hour after hour after hour, all they did was kill people, until December 20. I will never forget it as long as I live.
What happened in South Sudan at that time even the young kids know. Imagine, they were telling people go and rape your mother and your sister, and after you rape them then they will kill you.
And they were telling people eat the meat of your brother. And imagine, you are all South Sudanese together. If you have a mark [the Nuer have tribal scars across their foreheads] they will definitely kill you, because they know you are really Nuer.
It was not all the Dinka. It was those from Warrap state. They say that [Nuer leader] Riek Machar killed people in Bor in 1991, and they decided that they were going to take their revenge.
I really give thanks to God because when the attacks happened I was on the other side of the River Nile in the Gumbo area of Juba. If you tried to cross the river they would just take you and put you inside the river, they would just kill you. They killed eight of my relatives. They just rounded them up and killed them.
I wanted to get to the UNMISS camp [the UN Mission in South Sudan, which opened its gates to provide protection to Nuer civilians], but there was no way to get there safely. I waited eight days, and then eventually I reached the UNMISS camp and thanked God because I had reached there safely.
Not all the Dinka have a problem with Nuer. Not all Dinka support [President] Salva Kiir. The only person who called me in December 2013 to ask me if I was okay was a Dinka friend of mine. "Gabriel are you fine?" he asked me. "Yes I'm fine," I told him, "I'm in the UNMISS camp."
Our relationships haven't been broken by the war. We still have relationships with them. The one who asks if you are okay when you are in trouble - you cannot forget him.
I spent one month and a half in UNMISS. On February 27, 2014, I left there to go to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
It was very difficult to get here. I was afraid that if I travelled by plane that they would take my passport in the airport.
So I used a bus. When I reached the bridge across the Nile, soldiers there asked me: "Where are you going?" I told them: "I'm going to Kakuma." They told me: "You want to escape?" I told them: "No. I'm not going to escape!"
They said: "You are Nuer, we are going to kill you." I told them: "No problem." Fortunately one of the security guards came and said: "Let these people go."
I didn't travel with any of my family, but I travelled together with some of the Nuer. Most of them were boys. They don't have marks. If you have no marks, sometimes it's an advantage.
I arrived at Kakuma on February 28, 2014. I'd lived there before for 10 years, from 1999 to 2009. Now I've been back here almost two years.
I'm staying with my brother in Kakuma, who I left here when I went back to Juba. I really appreciated seeing him again. To be apart from your brother is hard sometimes. When we met again I really gave thanks to God. We'd been apart for almost five years.
My brother has been here for more than 10 years. He's at school - in Form Four. He is supposed to complete his education first and then he can go back to South Sudan.
When I arrived at Kakuma the first time, it was really different from how it is now. You'd maybe get water once a day, but now it is available. At that time you'd go to school, then go to get water, then cook. But if the dust came you could not even cook.
I owe my health to UNHCR, and I have a ration card from them. But there's not enough food. We used to get rations every 15 days, now it's once a month, even though it's not more food.
It's very hard to manage. If I have my ration card alone I will not survive. We come together in a group of 10 and collect the food. You may get sorghum, or maize, they give you oil and salt.
If it is only one person it's very hard to survive unless you have someone who can assist you somewhere. Maybe someone in South Sudan or in Africa can send money to you and you can go and buy a sack of maize.
The top officials at UNHCR don't know that this food is not enough.
I want to go back to UNMISS camp in Juba, because here in Kakuma it is too difficult. Being in the camp without any education is very hard. I wanted to get a diploma in computing, but it's very hard to get the funds for a computer. Even if I don't get to work at UNMISS at least I will get to be with my people.
The only problem with going back is the killing. Nowadays I hear there is a lot of killing there.
If you have these marks they know you are Nuer and they will kill you. UNMISS really saved the lives of people. If you go outside [the UNMISS camp] and you get killed then it's up to you because you are the one who wants to get killed.
I am waiting for Riek Machar to go back to Juba, then I will know there is peace, and that is when I will go back. If it is peaceful, I will go back to Juba town. If not I will go to UNMISS.
The problem now is that when you go back you might have lost your parents, your relatives, your friends. South Sudan has been completely destroyed.
I don't think peace will come back to South Sudan very soon. Salva Kiir doesn't want peace.
The history of South Sudan is a very, very, very sad story, a very sad story. But for the future, even though we lost many people, we have to go forward.
Source: Al Jazeera
A meaningful way of the cross amongst the poorest of the poor. Instead of the stations we could have stopped in each one of the tukul where those people live. It's been touching, following Jesus "up to Jerusalem"... How many crucified do we still need?
We began the way of the cross as a small group and we ended up in in the Church full of people. People are asking so many things to God, but I fear sometimes we forget the One thing we need and the One thing Jesus had said that the Father will always give to his children "God himself". And this is what Jesus is asking on the Cross. "Eli eli lemà sabactani" - "why have you forsaken me"... The "absence" of God was even more scaring then death itself.
What do we ask God?
Really, situation is very bad now in the Country and we are alla bit worried. Yet this morning I went out to buy some hope and I found it from those little ones.
I was whispering a song and they followed me... The words say "because living is beautiful, even if life's bad". The words are by an Italian singer and do fit in our situation here in South Sudan.
God bless you all
|Last night in our house, the moon was like a bright smile in the sky!!|
Yes, it's amazing!!
Some times ago, just after moving into the new house, i saw a weird plant growing and climbing along our fence. It looked like a climbing cucumber, which I don't think they exist...
I asked and I was told it was a sponge plant... What? I really thought they were teasing me, but I was wrong.
Have you seen the picture? It looks like a green cucumber, then it dries a lot, then you peal it and finally you get a very scrub effect sponge....
Africa is amazing, I've always thought natural sponges were from the sea, but they are also from one of the hottest and driest Country in the world!!
Amazing, simply amazing!!
God bless you all
A great and simply joy;
yes we had another day of great time. Notwithstanding the the threat of war, the deep economic crisis which affecting the Country and the daily difficulties we are called to face, we are still able to rejoice.
Yesterday, the 2nd of February, it was the feast of Consecrated life. What a gift. The priest who was celebrating Mass said "the consecrated people are the happiest people in the world"; true or not I'm happy most of the time. Some people need a reason to be happy and struggle to find it day after day; I feel I'm rather the contrary. I'm basically happy and really serene and need to find a reason to be sad, and I tell you, I'm not looking for it at all. Yes it happens; don't deny it. I feel empathy and compassion for all the people I'm spending my life with here in South Sudan, yet even the evil I witness is not strong enough (yet?) to make me feel sad. Worried, ok. Tense, ok. Preoccupied, ok. But not sad. I believe it's a grace of God and something I have also inherited from my family. My dad is the kind of person who always tried, and I'm sure he's still trying in his old age (please don't tell him I've said "old age") to give the best to us all; while my mum is the rather "get what life gives you and make the best of it" - great combination isn't it?
Back to yesterday. All the religious of Juba came to our Parish for Mass and then we had a simple supper in our compound with also Indian dancing, Kenyan singing, Eritrea dance, Italian songs and that was it. Simple, nice, peaceful. Then people rush off as it is really dangerous to be outside in the city after 20.00; but that's our life.
May God bless you all
I've just finished to celebrate the second Mass today, first in English then in Bari. I've witnessed a very touching scene.
In the gospel it's written that once Jesus was in the temple and was looking how people were given their offerings. At some point a widow turned up and left only two little coins. And it was more than anybody had given before.
On our parish we have a second collection for the building of the new church. I was rather absent minded but I was looking at the people putting their money into the box. The majority of the people give one ssp (South Sudanese Pound) which is 1/30 of a dollar. Then this old lady went to the box and opened her hand. Being by the altar I could see the money dropping into the box, but when she opened hers nothing came down, neither the two small coins of the widow in the temple that Jesus praised. I don't think she cheated anyone by "pretending" to give something for the new church. She bowed in front of the altar and slowly walked away, with a treasure in heaven.
The desire to give, even when we don't have anything at all. Sharing an empty hand. In the mathematics of God a hundred times what she's given is a lot of love and care and graces. May God bless her and her precious nothingness!
May God bless you all
Well, I have been beaten up by this little cuty... I met him at the sisters' and he immediately understood I was the one he could climb on. We've played for a while, but I was already on my way back home. When I was getting into our car he began to beat me up as he did not want me to go.
That's the language those children learn in their houses. You don't like something? You hit people and fight. Violence withing families is a real plague here, and this is what kids grow up with.
When he was trying to beat me I asked him "malo?" Which means "why?". You should have seen his face, he was kind of shocked and then started again hitting me.
Why asking "why" for the most natural thing to do? Do you need a reason to hit a person? Is it not how things normally work?
Truly, all they need is love; and it does not matter what we get in return.
May God bless you all