Born in Itang refugee camp in Ethiopia during the Sudan Civil war, I spent most of my childhood years living in Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) controlled areas between Yambio, Nzara, and Yei in Equatoria Region, where I attended my primary school in church and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) funded schools.
When South Sudan attained independence in 2011, I came back to Juba to participate in the Independence Day celebrations. To me, that marked the beginning of a new era, I finally had a place to proudly call home. The memories of witnessing the flag being raised in 2011 are still vivid in my mind. Belonging to a country meant that my status as a refugee had changed to immigrant, I was excited about getting my passport.
“The memories of witnessing the flag being raised in 2011 are still vivid in my mind”
Unfortunately, this excitement was short-lived when two years later (2013), a political conflict broke out in Juba, South Sudan. The result was millions of South Sudanese being displaced both internally and externally. This was even made worse in 2016 when the second conflict broke out again. As my family was privileged enough to be driving away in a car as I helplessly watched so many families being re-displaced, running in all directions when the shooting intensified near Jebel Kujur that Sunday morning, July 10, 2016. This brought back my childhood traumas of running to hide in “kandaks” (bunkers) especially in Yei during the bombings. That night I struggled to sleep, I found myself reliving the experiences of hearing the Sudanese Bomber planes and SPLA firing their Anti-Aircraft guns in attempts to down the planes
Most South Sudanese especially the generations born in the 80s and 90s were born and raised in conflict; From being born in refugee and displacement camps to living in SPLA controlled areas like Internality Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their country with no access to national basic services from the government in Khartoum to becoming refugees across the globe.
The conflict against the Sudanese government made more sense back then because it felt like it was a fight for the common good. No South Sudanese child born after the South Sudan flag was raised in 2011 deserves to be a refugee or internally displaced begging for basic needs from humanitarian providers. the children born in 2011 are turning eight (8) years of age this year, 2019. With an estimate of 2.2 million school-aged children out of school, about 30% of schools damaged, destroyed, occupied or closed according to UNICEF South Sudan Education Briefing Note August 2019, the child mortality rate at 98.6 deaths per 1,000 live births as per 2018 records by World Data Atlas-South Sudan, decent shelter and food remains a dream for many householders, how different are these children’s lives from those born during the Sudan Civil War?
“No South Sudanese child born after the South Sudan flag was raised in 2011 deserves to be a refugee or internally displaced begging for basic needs from humanitarian providers”
These Conflicts have been detrimental to the lives of most young South Sudanese for generations, robbing them of the opportunity to access or put their acquired knowledge to good use with hopes that the conflict ends soon enough for them to finally pursue their dreams and meaningfully contribute to the nation building processes. 2011 marked the beginning of the “New Sudan” but where is the promised land?