Without peace no security exists. I grew up surrounded by my people then i realized that everyone around me was a different shade. They were Arabs i was later told. Okay accepted. It never bothered me because i lived with them in harmony. Then i moved to Kenya and everyone looked like me great no feeling left out. Then i began to grow taller leaving my peers beg attaining a skin shade everyone considered way too dark for their liking.
My paternal aunt always told me i was different."You know you look different from the rest of us" she said. I never imagined what she meant.
So i would ask her, 'what do you mean?' and she would answer, "You're taller and darker than our people, you know our tribe, we are mostly short and lighter skinned in our part of the country, you on the other hand have the opposite complexion." She meant it in a nice way i know. I just never knew then what i know now or else i would have detested my appearance and most likely never come home.
She always said i was different. I did not realize how different until 2013 happened and i never want to go back there again! The current ongoing civil war erupted between forces of the government and opposition forces. In December 2013, President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état. The battle became divided along ethnic lines and all things appearance came into play. That was the time i became much more aware of the possibilities of being caught up in the insecurity that was taking place.
A little on the general appearance of the two tribes in question. Dinka are noted fro the height and dark shiny complexion and the Nuer are not far behind. Cattle keepers and warriors the two tribes exude an aura of fear and intimidation across the country.
My neighbors, girls of an age bracket between 16-18 years from the Lotuho tribe on the Eastern central Equatoria region tried to cross our infamous bridge to the other side of town to safety. Soldiers red-eyed drunk and angry screaming at civilians were conducting an exercise that was not for the fainthearted. They would scan your appearance and ask you your tribe , produce a document to prove your origin and let you go if you were neither Nuer nor Dinka and if you were one of the two said tribes, you would be pulled into the nearby dusty bush and shot dead while the rest were waiting in line for their fate to be sealed. If you attempted to run after realizing this, you would be shot in the back and it went on for hours. With relief the girls crossed safely after being threatened with rape and death if they were lying. " You look like our enemies" the soldier screeched in high pitch, " what proved otherwise?" They produced our never expiring nationality cards which indicated the tribe of both father and mother by name and location. The soldier looked at the document sneered, spit to the ground and threw the ID down, they scampered to grab the element of their freedom before it got away. They were saved!
As i watched all this i began to back away from the line with so slowly no one noticed due to all the commotion. I had no ID i was tall, dark and couldn't defend myself. I did not even know my local language if my life depended on it. So i went to the bank to withdraw some money so that i would consider air travel just to leave the country as soon as i could. I took a boda boda which is a motorcycle used as a means of transportation in my county. I noticed a car with dark sinister windows following me, the windows rolled down, two fellows were inside starring right at me. I overheard the conversation while trying to steal an earshot " She is one of them, no she couldn't be...she wouldn't be moving all by herself she knows the gravity of the insecurity on her life if she did." My hear beat as loudly as i could imagine it. The motorbike fellow even warned me against moving by myself as he skid off the dirt road towards the bank. He said " I know your not one of the fighting ethnic groups but you look like them, my advise to you is lay low."
As i got off the boda boda my eyes straight ahead all i could think off was how to get myself out of all this mess. I had never felt so insecure in my life and i wished that 2013 never happened.
The ongoing peace and reconciliation processes and signing of peace and petitions by groups like the civil society and women and youth groups are trying to lobby for peace and put a stop to this war which is basically against humanity with a specific target on certain ethnicity. The only way this would go away in my opinion is going back to the time when students, doctors, civil servants were sent to the different parts of the country to serve there, study there through exchanges between the different states. This promoted an understanding of the different cultures and even an appreciation and good humor as to how to associate with them. To feel more secure there would be a much needed effort from all parties to incorporate systems in place that promote understanding and cooperation. Like into the syllabus of schools, police service in rotations of other states, doctors, teachers etc. Then would there be feeling of security and peace.