Pride and Position

Old man

−I want the world to know what is happening in South Sudan right now, the old man says. The kids from the huts nearby are gathering around the old man hoping to end up in one of my photos. A young refugee woman is picking up a stick to chase them away, but the old man asks her to calm down.

− Leave them, and let them listen. What I have to say is important! I want everyone, including our own children, to understand that the brutality we’ve had the last few months exceeds anything I have seen in my lifetime.

Kuir Biar Yaak has only been in Kenya for a month. He was 12 when Sudan got its independence from Anglo-Egyptian co rule in 1956. After that Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during the second half of the 20th century. The non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese fought the Islamic north. The first civil war ended in 1972 but another broke out in 1983. Peace talks finally led to the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005. The south was granted autonomy for six years followed by a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. When the votes were counted in January 2011 98.83% of the population voted for independence. A new country was born and civilians like Kuir thought the days of war were over. They were wrong.

−I never considered leaving the country during the civil wars. The soldiers fought one another and left people like me alone. This time it was so bad I had to leave. They kill anyone that’s not on their side. Kuir fears the nuer-rebels, as he is dinka himself. However the old man is wise enough to realize that the brutality is just as bad when dinkas are attacking nuers.

−So what do you miss the most from your homeland?

−My pride and my position.

−Look at me, he says. I was an important man back home. I had more than 20 cows. Now I only have the clothes I’m wearing. Here in Kakuma I am just a lousy old man, a burden to my son, who brought me here.

−Will you ever return to see South Sudan again?

−No. The wounds this conflict has given my country won’t heal in my lifetime, the old man says.

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11 Responses to “Pride and Position”

  1. […] Øystein Mikalsen keeps reporting about the refugee situation from the border between South-Sudan and Kenya. This time he talks with Kuir Biar Yaak who has only been in Kenya for a month. He was 12 when Sudan got its independence from Anglo-Egyptian co rule in 1956. The old man tells a sad story about rebels killing anyone that’s not on their side. For Øystein’s full report please check out the blog Untold Stories. […]

  2. Quanta ingiustizia in questo mondo, persone come questo anziano hanno visto di tutto ma hanno sempre creduto alla loro indipendenza, invece tutto è stato inutile e hanno dovuto lasciare la loro Patria perché c’è sempre chi vuole essere superiore e usa le armi per imporsi. Mi addolora tanto leggere e sentire tutto questo!!

  3. Truly sad. The ever ongoing wars in the name of religion; north against south; man against his brother.

  4. So what do you do?

    For me; the type of mind I have, if there a problem I have to fix it. Obviously there is a gravely serious problem there, and I’m clueless as to how to fix it.

    I don’t give up trying to find an answer but for every day that I don’t, I’m frustrated.

  5. Terrible and heartbreaking.

  6. All I can say is thanks for reporting this. Unfortunately, I think it has not enough importance in other media

  7. It puts some of the whingeing that goes on in Western nations about really petty problems into perspective, doesn’ t it?

  8. So heartrending to read Kuir’s story. Your picture really portrays the absolute bleakness of the situation.

  9. These reports are heartbreaking. Keep them coiming, as the world needs to know what is going on. The challenge now is what to do about them!

  10. That is heart breaking and sad. War not only brings harm and death but destroys our inner sense of self and dignity. My thoughts and prayers to all victims of war and their families, for peace to reign and justice and comfort to the oppressed.

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