- South Sudan
“I was in Renk, in the north of South Sudan, trading in cattle with my friends Deng and Chol. We heard gunshots. I turned around and saw that Deng and Chol were dead. I immediately got up and ran to the bush. I did not know what was happening. I had not been following the events in Juba or the violence spreading across the country. I was very scared and confused.
I spent one day and one night in the forest. When I could no longer hear gunshots, I decided to go back to the compound to find out what had happened. It was a very risky choice but at that time, it was my only option. I walked out into the open and Nhial, my friend’s neighbour saw me, and asked me to go quickly into his house. He explained to me what happened and I was shocked. Nhial assured me that he did not wish me harm.
Nhial decided to help me find my way to safety. ‘You’re my friend. I don’t want you to die. They are saying that the fighting is between Nuer and Dinka, but that is not our fight. Nothing will hurt or kill you in my presence,’ he said when I asked him why he would risk his life to save mine.”
Nhial, a man from the Nuer tribe, helped Mabor Apiu, a Dinka find a way to safety. Mabor swan across four rivers and walked tirelessly without food and drinking dirty water. With the help of an uncle, he was able to reunite with his family in Juba.
“When my family did not hear from me after the fighting broke out, they assumed that I had died. When they saw me alive and well, they were surprised, but very happy.
I am very sad about what has happened. I have been trading for almost 17 years, moving between different lands occupied by different people. What happened to me and many others, regardless of their tribe, is like hitting a spoonful of food from someone’s hand just as it is about to enter their mouth. This has changed the way we live, places we go and how we make money.
I hope to see Nhial again. I am here only because of what he did for me. My family also wants to meet him and thank him for saving my life. I would do anything for him. Even if he calls me after a year and asks for my help, I will drop everything and go back to help him. He saved my life.”
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