I don’t know where to start. I wish I had taken my wife. Who am I without my school certificates? These three remarks by refugees, scribbled into notebooks by The Niles correspondents, support the Sudanese proverb that ‘experience is a solid walking stick’. War, hunger and poverty have repeatedly forced both Sudanese and South Sudanese to flee their homes. Right now more than 4.5 million people are on the road in the two countries, like these passengers on a bus from Khartoum to Shendi. The fifth edition of The Niles documents their journeys, following their routes to neighbouring villages, fast-expanding cities or the other side of the globe, revealing diverse experiences with a recurring theme: When you leave home, the familiar is lost but the essential remains.
14 The Niles Saleh Mahmoud left his home in central Eritrea decades ago and settled in Kassala, Sudan. > Departure: Bor, South Sudan > Arrival: Nyumanzi refugee camp, Uganda > Distance: 482km The Doctari 340 km > Departure: countryside near Hokat, Eritrea > Arrival: Kassala, Sudan > Distance: 340km Lost in transition Four decades ago Saleh Mahmoud was a young man, tending to his crops and cattle in Hokat, a city in central Eritrea. His peaceful life was shattered when he joined the fight for Eritrean independence. By Hamid Ibrahim Iheard reports of battles between the Eritrean Liberation Front and the Ethiopian emperor’s forces and I decided to join up. My contemporaries and I longed to free ourselves from Ethiopian colonialism. Following a short training course I became a fighter in the ranks of the Eritrean revolution. We fought many battles and had many victories, defeats, and disappointments. I fought with the Eritrean liberation forces for more than two decades until I found myself on the other side of the border in Sudan. Following divisions among the revolutionaries I decided to leave. Along with some comrades, I refused orders to spill the blood of fellow Eritreans described as “enemies”. This flew in the face of what we had fought for: the freedom and dignity of all Eritreans. In Sudan we were put in a camp for Eritrean military refugees in the Gargar area run by the Sudanese Armed Forces. We handed over our weapons. Eventually I officially became a refugee and was given ID documents that granted me certain rights – all except the right to do what I really wanted: leave the camp. Refugees cannot move or relocate without a permit from the authorities, which takes time, effort, and contacts, so I slipped away in 1986 and went to the nearby city of Kassala. Without qualifications, the only employment I could find was working as a security guard for very low pay. I had trouble getting used to the new society. My military background means I reject humiliation or mistreatment. I refused to let anyone look down on me or call me a refugee. This attitude got me into difficulties, including a knife fight with members of the Sudanese police who provoked me by calling me a refugee. I lost my temper and wounded some of them. I lost my job and was sent to prison for two months. I’ve had different jobs since - working as a waiter, a security guard, and now, a decade on, I’m a street vendor, selling plastic goods, especially jugs. My work is tiring – I have to carry the goods on my back through crowded markets – but it brings in enough to cover my needs. During my time as a refugee in Sudan – some thirty years – I have never considered getting married. I don’t want to have children with no rights. Also, I have never felt capable of providing the food, clothing and education that a family would need. That’s no simple matter for someone like me, who lacks a proper education and skills other than raising cattle and domestic chores. Most of those who came with me to Sudan, including some of my relatives, are better off than me. Some of them emigrated to European countries or places like Canada and Australia, others sorted themselves out here and got Sudanese citizenship. Most of them raised families and gave their sons and daughters an education. I couldn’t travel and don’t want to apply for official papers, even though I belong to a tribe with branches in both Sudan and Eritrea, the Bani Amer. Getting the Sudanese citizenship would require me to provide false documents and to say I was born in Sudan. That’s something I absolutely refuse to do because I am Eritrean and I’ll remain Eritrean until the day God inherits the earth and all those upon it. My only hope is that one day I may return to my village. With all my heart I long to go back and be buried in the ground alongside my fathers and forefathers. Fighting last year reduced the bustling settlement of Bor to a ghost town. Manyang Malual fled to a camp where he treats refugees in need of medical help. By Esther Muwombi Known by his nickname Doctari, or Doctor in Juba Arabic, Jacob Manyang Malual fled to the Nyumanzi refugee camp after weeks of fighting between government forces and rebels killed thousands. Bor, the capital of Jonglei, became a ghost town. Since then, the number of people seeking refuge has continued to swell as violence continues across the country. Malual has set up a makeshift home at Nyumanzi camp where he spends his days tending to the sick and injured. “My clinic is always flooded, but not every patient has money,” he says. “Many come to me for help and I treat them for free. They could go to the various NGO medical treatment tents or even government hospitals, but many are too ill to walk to these facilities, which are far outside the camps.” He adds that many refugees walk for days to the free hospitals only to find that they are too full. Malual, who used to work at the State Ministry of Health in Bor, now also works for ACORD, a health organisation at the camp. He says his clinic aims to help people rather than turn a profit. He lives at the camp with his wife, their four children, his father, his two wives, and 16 step sisters and brothers: “I treat and feed all of them.” Deng Ding, who has been nursing an infected wound for months after being shot as he ran from his home in Bentiu to the United Nations camp, is among those treated at the small clinic inside Nyumanzi that Malual set up with his savings. “If it wasn’t for Doctari’s treatments on my wound, my leg could have been cut off by now,” Ding says. The local population of 100,000 has two government hospitals for refugees and locals. There are ten private clinics in the camp, too few for the long queues of ailing people. The biggest health threats are malaria, respiratory diseases like tuberculosis and asthma, and urinary tract infections. Malual’s clinic treats at least 15 people with such conditions every day. But many fear that the spread of diseases will continue apace as the locals lack basics like mosquito nets to prevent malaria. “Over time relatives of the refugees have crept into the camps without the authorities’ knowledge. Now they are sharing the few nets there are,” he says. “In some tents four or five kids sleep under one net and during the night they slip out of the nets and get mosquito bites.” theniles_enar_20150327.indd 14 2015/3/31 1:50 PM
The Niles 15 > Departure: Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan > Arrival: Khartoum, Sudan > Distance: 550km > Departure: Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan > Arrival: Khartoum, Sudan > Distance: 550km > Departure: Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan > Arrival: Khartoum, Sudan > Distance: 550km 350km “Where is my important information from China?” “Who am I without my school certificates?” “My child is most precious to me” > Name: Kimo Philip. > Previous occupation: Health Inspector at the Ministry of Health in Upper Nile State. > Current occupation: None - job seeker. Where did you run from? Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. Where do you plan to go? I would rather stay in Sudan and work in business if I have the opportunity. What item do you wish you had taken with you? My personal computer. I left the city with only a pair of pants and one shirt. Why do you still dream of this item? Because it contains important information about the training I received in China. What is your favourite item now? Nothing. What makes this item very precious? I have lost everything and have to start my life all over again. > Name: Philip Peter. > Previous occupation: High school pupil. > Current occupation: None – my family cannot afford school fees. Where did you run from? Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. Where do you plan to go? I want to return to South Sudan since I have no other place in mind. I want the war to end and peace to return to my country since being in exile is not a pleasant experience. What item do you wish you had taken with you? Nothing. What is your favourite item now? My school certificates. What makes this item very precious? Because if my family can afford school fees next year, these documents will allow me to attend school again. Interview by Michael Francis > Name: Angelina Jouma. > Previous occupation: Housewife. > Current occupation: None - job seeker. Where did you run from? Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. Where do you plan to go? I lived in Khartoum before. I only returned to South Sudan in 2012 and then I had to leave again. I am here for now. What item do you wish you had taken with you? My documents and certificates. Why do you still dream of these item? They would have helped me find a job and continue my education. What is your favourite item now? My child. What makes this item very precious? My child is my most precious thing, which I carried while I was running. Interview by Michael Francis 400 450 Interview by Michael Francis 500 > Departure: Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan > Arrival: Khartoum, Sudan > Distance: 630km “I want my land ownership documents back” 482 550 550 550 km km km km Doctor Manyang Malual spends his days treating ill refugees at Nyumanzi refugee camp. > Name: Galwak Garoj. > Previous occupation: Merchant. > Current occupation: None - job seeker. Where did you run from? Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan. Where do you plan to go? I’m not considering returning to South Sudan at the moment. If peace returned I would wait here another year before going back to make sure that the peace is real. Philip Peter, originally from Malakal in South Sudan, wants to go back to school. Kimo Philip traveled from Malakal, South Sudan, to Khartoum with only a pair of trousers and a shirt. South Sudanese Angelina Jouma fled twice to Khartoum, before and after independence. What item do you wish you had taken with you? My land ownership documents. 600 Why do you still dream of this item? To ensure my future and avoid having my land in South Sudan taken away from me. What is your favourite item now? Nothing. Interview by Michael Francis 650 theniles_enar_20150327.indd 15 2015/3/31 1:50 PM