- South Sudan
“I make tea to sell it and people drink it regardless of where I’m from. We’re all here under the same circumstances and have to stick together to survive.”
Nyabil, 23*, is from the Nuer tribe. Like millions in South Sudan, Nyabil had to flee the conflict and ethnic violence that erupted in December 2013. She left her home in a hurry and reached the Mingkaman site, where displaced people took shelter.
“On 16th December 2013, my neighbour, Mabior, came to my house and shouted at me saying, ‘Please, get up let’s go’. My neighbours and I all ran together. We didn’t know what was happening but knew that we had to run, hide and stay safe. We hid in bushes for eight days.”
Both Mabior, from the Dinka tribe, and Nyabil, from the Nuer tribe, had to run when racial tribal violence broke out in the country.
Mabior and I helped each other while there – there was no food or water so we had to find ways to survive. By the eighth day, most of the people we were hiding with had left for Mingkaman. Mabior too left when he found the means. I was suddenly alone in the bush with my two children.
I was walking along the river trying to get some help. I knew I had to cross to the other side to keep my family safe. I then came across a man called Garang Riak. I don’t know why I approached him but I did. What could I lose from asking for some help? ‘I have no money and need to get to the other side. I have been left here alone with my children. Please help me with some money to cross and I will give it back to you when all of this is over,’ I said.
To my surprise, Garang reached into his pocket and gave me enough money to cross to Mingkaman. ‘You don’t have to return the money I’m giving you now,’ he said. ‘Gunshots don’t know the difference between a Dinka and Nuer person. They kill whatever is in their path. You’re alive and so is your family. Cross to the other side and settle this debt when all this is over and you are able to.’
All I said was thank you because I was overwhelmed and tired. We got on the boat and crossed to safety at Mingkaman. I found the nearest available tree and settled there with my family. Everyone here knows that I am a Nuer woman. No one has said anything bad to me or looked at me the wrong way. We all fled the same violence, even though they are Dinka.
Photo: Mackenzie Knowles Coursin/Oxfam
Following decades of fighting, South Sudan became an independent state in July 2011. There was high expectation for growth and many believed they would not see another conflict in the country they fought so hard and so long for. But on December 15, 2013, a conflict erupted in Juba, the capital. It quickly became a national, political and ethnic crisis.
Over two million had to flee from their homes. Today, according to the United Nations, there are still over 1.6 million internally displaced people in the country.
Follow Oxfam in South Sudan @OxfamSouthSudan