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عربي

1/Identity: Reflections may seem closer than they appear
A cock cannot crow in the neighbour’s house

Abraham Maker
Wherever he goes, there is already a cliché about his identity awaiting him.
13.12.2016  |  Nairobi, Kenya
Social media lab in the river Nile. (photo: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah | Reuters)
Social media lab in the river Nile. (photo: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah | Reuters)

We are easily identified by our ebony skin, our tall and slender bodies. Our birthmarks to the rest of the world are our facial scars: the beautiful tattoos on Nuer faces, the contoured lines on both Dinka and Nuer foreheads, dotted scars on Shilluk’s cheeks, as well as other marks on the bodies of some tribes. Other nationalities ask me how I escaped facial scarification, and it takes me a long time to give them whatever reason I might have to convince them.

Why are you people killing each other?

But the questions do not just stop at my appearance: “Why are you people killing each other? What will you gain from it?” I can hardly find a correct answer because I also have no idea why they are killing each other. Whenever this question comes up, the arrogance and warmonger spirit, with which I have often been labelled, rises up in me, making my blood pressure rise up millions of times, and shooting gallons of adrenaline into my blood vessels. Heat pumps through my ears and my brain, making them erupt with volcanic lava that could burn the person asking the question. Thankfully, the whole episode only takes one second and when my blood pressure drops and the volcano eruption finally subsides, I just say: “God will heal my country. Pray for us.”

 

They say we are arrogant

After recently arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, the driver who awaited me at the airport broke her long silence and told me that South Sudanese were living all over the city. She explained how arrogant some of them were, especially her neighbours who turned small quarrels among the children in the neighbourhood into a big fight that involved adults. “Why are you people so arrogant?” the driver asked me. “Why do you always love fighting? Some of your people here always start fighting with citizens of Kenya, not knowing that they are in a foreign land.” I had no answer. All I could do was gaze into space like a goat lost in thought about where and when to munch on a few blades of grass. I thought about the old saying: “A cock cannot crow in the neighbour’s house.”

The mess in your house isn’t visible until you leave. Here I can see how messy my country looks on the outside. Every time I interact with other nationalities, I see empathy but also contempt on their faces when I tell them that I am from South Sudan. Some say that they are sorry about what happened in my country and to my people, while others ask me why South Sudanese are still killing each other after the independence. Some of them sympathise genuinely while others do it for the sake of doing it. This has forced me to develop a defensive mechanism so that when I meet some people, I involuntarily introduce myself and immediately start explaining to them that the war is over and that peace is now prevailing with the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in place, even if no one has asked for an explanation.

 

They say we are aggressive

Little did I know that there would be another muscle flexing again in Juba that would put our image on international television – not for having invented a lifesaving machine but for having started another war in less than two months of forming the unity government. Because of this, I can read everyone’s mind: “Who cares about your TGoNU when you have again messed up your lives and the country?” They don’t say it aloud but I see it in their eyes.

Every moment I approach a group of people, I inwardly pray to God that no one will ask me where I come from. The more I pray, the more I am likely to be asked and the more I try to explain about the peace process. It takes a lot of my energy and time to explain to whomever asks me about the war in my country, telling them that it is not what they think and assuring them that peace will one day prevail.

This article is part of:
Population: Nobody has been sent to see
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