By Alex Taremwa
Thiik Madut has been a refugee for 27 years, for all that long he had not known peace until after the signing of the CPA and later the referendum 3 years ago that saw the birth of South Sudan which became the world’s youngest nation.
After these developments, Madut decided to return home in South Sudan so that he could partake in the nation building projects but due to lack of better incentives like better education facilities, housing and medical related facilities, he decided to bring his family back to Uganda; what he termed as “our second home” and they have been living here ever since.
Like Madut, Mbarara is one of the biggest South Sudan settlements in Uganda with a South Sudan community population estimated in its thousands all doing different activities ranging from business, education, to family and household development.
Like the rest of the residents in Mbarara, they contribute either directly or directly to the development of Mbarara in terms of revenue correction on the business they own, the houses they rent and the commodities they buy for consumption at household levels.
Still citizens of South Sudan, The Transparent thought it important to involve them in a discussion regarding the current political insurgencies in their mother country and here is their story:
Elizabeth Naome is a student at St. Mary’s Girls Secondary School at Rwebikoona, Mbarara; due to a language mismatch between the journalist and the audience, she acted as the interpreter. She told The Transparent that besides what she watches on television, she has no clear picture of what is going on back at home.
“Even us we are confused. We only rely on TV to catch up with the stories back at home,” she said.
On the contrary, Peter Ngor a 3rd year medical student at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has good knowledge of what is happening in South Sudan and as a matter of fact, he follows closely the proceedings both on the internet and broadcast media.
Speaking to The Transparent, Peter said he doesn’t believe that mediation can deliver peace in South Sudan. He in fact said he expect something like this to happen because their country is deeply rooted in ethnic inclinations and profound nepotism which commands a blind following by ethnic group to their respective politicians.
“Even when President Kiir is on the wrong, the Dinka will fight on his behalf anyway because he is a Dinka and the same goes for Riek Machar’s tribesmen,” Peter said.
Peter added that if only his country could learn from the mistakes of the past, they would easily realize that war is a destructive and a hindrance to development.
In agreement with Peter is Madut who besides being father of 3, he has also lived in the USA. Madut is happy with Uganda’s presence in Juba regardless of whether it is partisan or otherwise and he also is optimistic that the peace talks may yield some fruits.
However Madut noted that given the aggressive nature of the two belligerent tribes and considering their historical rivalry, peace won’t be achieved on a silver plate.
At the time of the interview, Madut was reading a book titled “The Genesis of Political consciousness in South Sudan” by Arop Madut Arop and from it he further noted that when people pay loyalty to tribes than to the country itself, from where can compromise come? He said.
Life in Mbarara:
Late last year, The Transparent published a story of a one South Sudanese boy who was lynched and killed by angry mob in Kakyeka, Mbarara on accusations that he tried to pick a wallet. That incident reportedly kick-started an exodus of South Sudanese back home due fear of the locals.
“My family and I are also thinking of leaving soon not because there is much hope where we are going but because where we are, there is no hope at all,” Juma John told The Transparent.
Juma added that they (South Sudanese) know Uganda a lot different and due to the fact that their country was devastated war, they moved here so that they could at least enjoy some peace of mind in a secure and friendlier place but to their surprise, it’s just the contrary.
“I don’t mean to pass judgment but the way we are treated doesn’t show equity like we earlier thought. We are charged higher rent than the locals yet safety is not guaranteed for both our property and children,” Thiik Madut said.
They accused the police of being partisan with the locals and inconsiderate to their feelings. Relating to the case where one of their co-ethnics was killed by a mob on theft allegations, Madut said that the police made some arrests but later released the arrested without placing any charges against them.
The released, who mostly were Boda-Boda riders started to mistreat South Sudanese children whenever they would be going/coming to/from school respectively.
“We can’t afford to live in fear. Most people have begun to shift their families now and sooner or later my family and I shall be following suit” he added.
However, the Rwizi Regional Police Spokesperson Polly Namaye denied being partisan and inconsiderate. She explained that those arrested in connection with the mob justice were brought before court; some were remanded while some were released on bail.
“It is possible that there could be some pockets of information that the police may not have picked that could be useful and in that case, we are calling upon them to bring it to our attention so that if need be, fresh arrests can be done,” Namaye told The Transparent in a telephone conversation adding that Police doesn’t work alone but instead it works with people to keep the law intact.