…Charles Taban, told at the 61st Annual DPI/NGO UNESCO Conference Reaffirming Human Rights in Paris 2008.
I feel honored today as I sit here to share with you my own experience and the experiences of many other young people of the Sudan who are not present at this conference.
Three months before my Sudan high school certificate, I found myself in a situation where I had to take a decision to leave home without telling anyone in the family because my life was at risk.
January 28th 1998 night, witnessed a heavy fight in the town of Wau as Mr Kerubino Bol, the first man who started the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), staged a war against the Khartoum government after disagreeing on some issues agreed upon in the Khartoum Peace agreement of 1997. What followed this situation was the mass killing and arbitrary arrest of many young people who were labeled as associated of the defector.
In the confusion of this situation, one of my friends who was working with the security came and informed me and others not to move around in the town as the security situation was not healthy for us young men to hang around without a gun or something to defend ourselves.
Together with some of my friends, we held an urgent meeting to decide what to do in this regard. The decision we reached was to get out of the town without telling anyone even from the family.
In the afternoon of 29th January 1998, we left the town and entered the bush where we had to share the wild fruits with birds and water if we were lucky with animals in the forest for several days. After nine days of walk in the forest without a gun, knife or a spear in our hands, we found ourselves in one of the villages in the rebel-controlled area. When we got there, they put us all in the cell and then called each to give reasons as to why we were there.
As if that was not enough, the commander in the front line sent a word that we had to meet him before being left free to move in the rebel-controlled areas. From that village, we had to walk for another 2 days to the front line to meet that man. On reaching there, he asked nothing as to why we left our homes to be in the rebel-controlled areas, but kept telling us to join the army since we had some education. For six to seven days, the man kept urging us to join the army, a thing we did not want till we were saved by the commissioner of the area to whom we wrote a letter begging him to help let us go.
Having been left free to go, we walked for another five days covering about 30-35 miles each day till we made it to a bigger town in the rebel-controlled area.
While in that town, we did not feel safe yet and as a result, we decided to move again to Uganda where we found ourselves not accepted as we did not know anyone there.
We went to the WFP and UNHCR office in Northern Uganda asking for help and all they told us was, to go to Kakuma camp in Kenya.
Now how can we go without money to board a bus, buy food to eat on the way? We spent two to three days in Northern Uganda wondering on the streets of Arua not knowing what to do. Finally, the group decided to gather whatever coins we had in our pockets which was about 22 US-Dollar, gave it to me and asked me to go to Kampala to look for some help there as they walked back to the town at the border of Sudan with Uganda.
While traveling, providentially, the car overturned with us and we were taken to hospital. After two days in hospital, the sisters running the hospital gave me 60,000 USH (ca. 35 US-Dollar) and asked me to go my way since it might be difficult for me to stay for many days in the hospital when I had no one to take care of me.
With the money I was given, I took the bus to Kampala and from there went further to Nairobi with the aim of going to look for the help I was asked by my friends. On reaching Nairobi, by good luck, I met someone who knew me and then took me to the Salesians of Don Bosco who helped me to go and get my friends whom I left behind and then made us go to school in Kenya.
This is just one side of my personal story of forced migration and there are cases, which I would have loved to share with you if I had enough time to do so. In addition to that, there are other stories of many young people whom I knew and stayed with, back in the Sudan and in Kenya who had to leave their homes and seek refuge in Uganda or Kenya as a result of violence against human rights to protection and security.
Recorded by: Valentin Jeutner (Germany, AC06-08)
– Untied World College –