The Story of Manyok and His Family in South Sudan
BOR, South Sudan/GENEVA, 30 January 2012 (LWI) – Manyok is the father of a Dinka family living in Jonglei State, South Sudan.
He married his wife Rebecca two years ago and they have a one-year-old child. Rebecca’s father died many years ago, so when Manyok married her, he took responsibility for her, her sister, two brothers and mother.
Manyok is also a food security officer for The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and is based in Panyagor, Jonglei State. The family is from Duk Padiet, less than 100 km north of Panyagor, a town that was attacked by cattle raiders on 16 January.
Witnesses said that at around 5 p.m., hundreds of men dressed in military uniforms stormed the town on foot. Rebecca ran for her life with her baby on her back, passing people who had been killed or injured by the cattle raiders as she fled. She hid in the bush for two days without anything to eat.
When Manyok heard about the attack, he said, “I could not sleep that night. I left Panyagor early and when I got to Duk Padiet I could not find the women and children. I found the wounded people on the airstrip and others were burying the dead. Nobody knew whether my family was alive or dead.”
He visited the local authorities and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan who told him that most people were missing and still unaccounted for, but Manyok heard from others who had also fled that his family was still alive.
After his wife and child returned to Duk Padiet, Manyok felt that there would not be another attack on the town and that his family was safe, so he returned to work in Panyagor. When he left work last Friday, he arrived back at his house to find his family members waiting for him.
“I was surprised to see them at my door. I asked them what had happened and they said that things were getting worse and most people are leaving—the women and children are leaving,” he said.
It was then that he sent his family south to Bor where he felt that they would be safer than in Panyagor. There are fears about attacks, and the LWF takes precautionary measures, including evacuation of staff, when needed. Some staff have sent their children away so that if there is another attack, they are able to escape easily.
Manyok’s mother and mother-in-law are farmers in Duk Padiet and remain there along with his two brothers as they cannot afford to live in towns like Bor.
Living on the run is something most people in South Sudan are used to, according to Manyok.
“My community has been attacked three times—heavy attacks. In 2008 by the Nuer…almost 60 people were killed, and then in 2009 when more people were killed…I am familiar with this kind of life.”
He lost two of his brothers during the war in Sudan.
Many Sudanese travel as far as Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, some 125 km from the border. As many as 100 have been arriving daily since December.
Optimism despite Violence
Despite the recent wave of violence, like many Sudanese Manyok remains optimistic that the violence will end one day.
“During the war…people are used to being on the move, but now we are settling,” he says. “Life is good now, and there is even a hope that it will improve,” he adds.
“There was an attack in 2008 [in] August, an attack in 2009 [in] September, then from 2009 to January 2012 there was peace. Maybe if it is in this cycle, the next one will be in 2018 or 2015…maybe this one is the last attack,” says Manyok.
After three decades of war, Manyok and his fellow citizens hold high hopes for South Sudan which will only be realized if peace holds. (662 words)
(Written for LWI by Melany Markham in South Sudan)