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In South Sudan, peace seemed like a lost dream after conflict erupted in December 2013. For some, the promises made at independence in 2011 have been dashed, but many are trying to keep hope alive. They are the Guardians of South Sudan. Here are some of their stories.
Guardians of life
When the conflict broke out in South Sudan, many were caught unaware. Some woke up in the middle of the night to gunshots and screams and thought only of running to safety with their loved ones. For others, their well being came second to that of the many that needed help surviving the unfolding catastrophe. They found in themselves the will and strength to rise up and help save lives. They did it in December 2013 and are still doing so today.
Mabut Bol, boatman
Mabut Bol used to work as a helmsman on a boat in Bor port. He is 29 years old and has been a helmsman since 2006. Now an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) in Mingkaman, he continues ferrying people and goods from Mingkaman to his home town Bor. When the crisis broke out, he helped rescue people from the conflict affected area in Bor to the safe harbours of Mingkaman.
Dr. Reec has been practicing medicine for over five years. He always wanted to be a doctor so that he can help people. He has been a doctor in Melut for 14 months. According to him, there is a great need for doctors in South Sudan but a greater need for well equipped facilities and reliable medical supplies.
Akul, traditional birth attendant
Akul has been a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) in formal hospitals for ten years. When the crisis occurred, many ran, including the health staff from the hospital. She decided to stay because she saw the need and knew that if she did not help, no one else would.
Guardians of hope
Hope is a fragile fruit to bear. In South Sudan, the seeds of hope were planted after independence was gained from Sudan in July 2011. This hope was threatened when conflict erupted in December 2013, displacing almost 650,000 people by the end of January 2014. It has now been a year and 1.4 million people are still displaced, too afraid to go back home, (add refugees). Hope is the beacon that shines light where there is none, the Guardians of hope in South Sudan have been shining light even when the darkness seems overwhelming.
Thomas Igga, Parish priest
Thomas Igga is a Parish priest at Kator church. When the crisis occurred, many people ran to the church to seek refuge. He believes that peace will come, but with serious effort and commitment from the ordinary people of South Sudan.
Nhial, mother of six
While fleeing from Nassir, Nhial lost the baby she was carrying. The crisis separated her from her husband. She has been taking care of her six children by herself and hopes to go back after the situation calms down. Main challenges facing women are the lack of sanitary facilities and services.
Omot, 16 year old
Omot’s parents died in Malakal. She fled to Melut on foot with her aging grandmother and five of her siblings. Although her grandmother supports her, she is old and Omot bears the weight of her family’s future in her hands.
Guardians of the future
South Sudan has lost countless people to generations of war. The future is bleak if young minds are not encouraged to work for a better one. The quality of life for future generations depends on our actions and decisions today. The guardians of the future are a unique breed tasked with protecting a future that seems difficult to envision after a year of broken promises and elusive peace. Many look to them for guidance, although their eyes and voices relay their fears, they still somehow hold on to dear hope for their nation. They have continue to search for a bright future for South Sudan, even when the odds say otherwise.
Chief of the IDP’s in Minkaman who led his people from Bor as it was not safe to stay, John is a strong advocate for peace and education of future generations.
Kas, drama and arts student
Kas is a drama and arts student at the Juba University. Through her art, she advocates for a better future for South Sudan.
Robert, football coach
Robert is a football coach in Minkaman. He formed the teams in July 2013. They play matches three times a week when it’s possible. Robert leads 27 players and believes that Football is a positive outlet for young men who need guidance.
Francis has been a teacher at Nation Basic School for two years and was in Juba when the crisis started. He teaches math, English and social science. He feels like a father to his pupils and wants them to grow up to be productive members of the society.
The Guardians of South Sudan are pillars of hope and resilience. They are standing strong against the odds to ensure that there will be a united South Sudan that can be rebuilt and healed when the conflict ends.