For the last few nights sleep is something I have to search for. I just cannot get rid of the images described by the UN Peacekeepers of “women and children in the Sudan being mowed down”.
In 2002, when I visited South Sudan for the first time I was really shell shocked. I am a child of Africa and have worked and lived in many African countries.
When I went to visit John Garang, the Head of forces fighting for South Sudanese and later Vice President of Sudan, at his house I had quite a journey. We flew in a United Nations plane to Rumbek. From Rumbek Airport, which was a very makeshift airport, we drove to John Garang’s house in a heavily fortified jeep. We drove over the rocky dirt roads that shook every part of my body. The potholes were so big and so frequent that I was constantly bracing myself as if I was at the apex of a roller coaster. It was quite an experience. There was no infrastructure to speak of in Rumbek. It was the same in Juba the capital of South Sudan.
Rumbek also had very limited health facilities. The centre for feeding undernourished children was lacking in milk for the babies. I saw children in different states of malnutrition. The above picture is of 5-year-old child whose hair has turned blonde through malnutrition. He is sitting next to his six month old sibling.
In 2000, after almost 50 years of pain, suffering, and conflict at long last there was a concerted effort to bring peace to the region.
I attended many meetings in Nairobi, Navisha, Washington D.C, Oslo and Cairo as Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan.
At long last there was going to be Peace in South Sudan. Recently, I visited Juba and was really impressed with the activities and progress in development. It felt like everyone was helping to build Sudan. In fact, I spent some time at Vice President Machar’s home. Mrs Machar had invited many women to meet with me.
Today, the South Sudanese are again facing conflict. Many countries including Canada are disengaged. I am really distraught, as I just cannot accept that once again the people of Southern Sudan will be in the thorns of conflict just as they were starting to enjoy the fruits of peace. The baby I am holding in the first picture would now be around 10 years old. Will this new conflict deny her an education and basic human rights?
ARE WE ONCE AGAIN GOING TO ABANDON THE PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN SUDAN?