Ethiopians in South Sudan
Nyasha Kadandara shares the stories of Anuak refugees from Ethiopia living in South Sudan for DW Africalink. Listen here:
[INTRO] Ethiopia’s new prime minister Abiy Ahmed has made waves in the horn of Africa since taking office in April this year. Economic, political and diplomatic reforms are being implemented to bring the country to the fore. At the end of July, Prime Minister Abiy is expected to travel to the United States to engage with Ethiopia’s diaspora community, many of whom fled political persecution under past regimes. Under the theme, “Demolishing the wall, let‘s build the bridge” Ahmed aims to encourage Ethiopians living abroad to play a role in shaping the country’s political and economic future. But closer to home, in neighbouring war-torn South Sudan, are the Anuak people, a persecuted minority group from the north-west who have sought refuge on the outskirts of the capital, Juba. Some Anuak refugees say they have good reason to be skeptical of Ethiopia’s new leadership and are wary of returning home.
Omot Obang Kwot: 2003 Dec 13, that’s the year when we fled from Ethiopia to South Sudan.
[Kadandara] Sitting under a thatched roof in the reception center of Gorom refugee camp, Omot Obang Kwot explains why he ran away from Ethiopia.
Omot Obang Kwot: The main reason was we were massacred, there was genocide, it was done by the Ethiopian government basically to our tribe called the Anuak, we’re in the western part of Ethiopia in Gambella region.
[Kadandara] Since 2003, Human Rights Watch has documented allegations of abuse by government security forces. In December of that year at least 424 Anuak civilians were killed, forcing an estimated 16,000 people to flee to what was then Sudan. Now, fifteen years later, Omot Obang Kwot is one of 2,783 refugees currently living in Gorom refugee camp.
Omot Obang Kwot: We still have new arrivals coming, and we have had people who have stayed so long. (In Anuak Language)
[Kadandara] Okello Ochang Cham is one of those recent arrivals, after being seperated from his family who reached Gorom before him. It took him 2 years to get there.
Okello Ochang Cham: When the fighting started I was injured and i was caught by the military and put in prison I was released but then I had no money so I had to walk here. (In Anuak Language)
[Kadandara] Fleeing persecution in his region of Gambella, Okello Ochang Cham was determined to be reunited with his wife and two children.
Okello Ochang Cham: There is still killing going on in Gambella, not by shooting but by poisoning, when you buy seeds or food, you could get sick. (In Anuak Language)
[Kadandara] Ochang Chang shakes his head at the mention of the change in Ethiopia’s new leadership.
Okello Ochang Cham: I’m not sure what will happen but what I know is that the government system has not changed. Even if they have changed the prime minister she system has not changed. (In Anuak Language)
[Kadandara] As one of the earliest arrivals, Akwata Umot Okok, lives in the oldest part of Gorom – she’s turned her plot into a home, with chalk decorations and inscription says, ‘To the New Year 2018, Maybe it is better!” The camp, she says, it better for her, but what about those at home?
Akwata Umot Okok: I am in contact with my two sisters back at home. They are not safe, right now they are just surviving. (In Anuak Language)
[Kadandara] We asked her, what will it take for her to go back?
Akwata Umot Okok: Now it depends on the conditions in Ethiopia, if Ethiopian is now free I will go back if it is not I will not go back. (In Anuak Language)