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From South Sudan to the USA: One woman’s story

O. Hannington
A stream of educated and talented young men and women, like Poni Amani, leave South Sudan in search for better opportunities and for their own safety.
5.06.2014  |  Yei
Poni Amani when she was still living and working in Yei, 2007.
Poni Amani when she was still living and working in Yei, 2007.

The site Africa’s longest civil war, South Sudan has witnessed decades of violence, death, starvation and disease, sparking a massive exodus of frightened citizens.

Poni Amani, a mother of three who moved to the United State of America in 2009, is among the millions who migrated. Since then she never looked back.

After fighting started in mid December last year, spreading fast across the country and killing thousands, Poni cannot imagine returning to South Sudan. Life here is better,” she said in a Facebook conversation.

But, even from the distance, her fears for South Sudan dominate her daily life in Kansas where she spends her days looking after her young children. I have got relatives still living in South Sudan,” she said.
Poni, who is from Kajo-Keji County, came to the US to join her South Sudanese husband who was working there. Poni’s children were born in the US and they have never visited South Sudan but she tells them stories of life in Africa. Even though I am a now a US citizen, I only came here to join their dad and to live a better life,” she said.

She hopes to one day take her children to South Sudan, but her hopes are waning as the violence continues, killing thousands and sparking a new wave of refugees and internally displaced people. I think the conflict is a result of revenge,” she said.

She is also put off returning by the grinding poverty faced by millions in South Sudan, where many live without enough to eat or access to reliable health and education services and international organisations warn of a risk of starvation as crops have not been planted amid the latest violence.

There is freedom of speech, good edu- cation, the health system is excellent,
life is good.”
Poni Amani
Like many other countries in Africa, South Sudan has suffered a so-called ‘brain drain’. Poni, who has a degree from Makerere University and has worked for international NGOs, is one of a stream of educated and talented young men and women who leave the country, partly in search of greener pastures and partly for their own safety.

She says she would rather stay in the US, where her children have more opportunities. There is freedom of speech, good education, the health system is excellent, let me say that life is good generally,” she said. And the US is peaceful.”