- South Sudan
In June 2013, Alier was selected to be part of a programme that trained primary school teachers for seven months in remote parts of South Sudan to build their capacity. With two other colleagues, he was deployed to a remote area, in the north of the country.
“I am a Dinka and that is an area populated by Nuer people. I was worried about the language barrier.” But it turned out not to be such an issue: “They shared meals with us and introduced us to their wives and children. We were invited to their homes to break bread and discuss current affairs and also history. We became like family.”
“The programme successfully came to an end in December 2013. The teachers surprised us by organising a thanksgiving event on 15th December. They gathered the community together and we celebrated our accomplishment and shared our hopes for the future.”
On that same day, conflict broke out in Juba, the capital.
“We boarded a boat on 16th December. The teachers came with us to say goodbye. Before leaving us, they talked to the boat captain and the other passengers on the boat.
‘These are our teachers and most importantly our friends. Watch over them and make sure they arrive safely. If they don’t, you will have to answer to us,’ said one of the teachers. Eight hours later, we arrived safe and sound. The teachers had been calling us in those eight hours to find out if we were alright.”
“The fighting had started in Bor and I found out that I had lost a lot of family members. I had a lot of anger in me when news of these senseless deaths came to me. Deep in anger and grief I asked myself, ‘Are there any good Nuer left?’ This led me to ponder two very dominant and conflicting events.
On one hand, the rest of my family was being killed for being Dinka, a tribe that they did not choose to be. They were killed for no reason other than they were the wrong tribe, in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
On the other hand, I was in Juba, safe with my wife and children only because Nuer people decided to help me, even though I was from a tribe that was in some parts killing their own, even though it was a risk to their lives.
‘I mourn for everyone who has suffered in this conflict. I feel for them because I have family and friends on both sides, Dinka and Nuer. When I think about what was done for me and my colleagues, and the countless lives no doubt saved in a similar fashion, I already know my answer. Yes, there are many good Nuer left.’
Photo: Stella Madete/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