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South Sudanese suffer in Sudanese camps

Francis Michael
Kibi Jarmaya Abraham, Humanitarian Attaché at the South Sudanese Embassy in Sudan, spoke to The Niles about the bleak reality facing South Sudanese in Khartoum and elsewhere.
7.10.2014  |  Khartoum
كيبي جرمايا أبراهام، الملحق الإنساني بقنصلية جنوب السودان في الخرطوم، 15 ديسمبر.
كيبي جرمايا أبراهام، الملحق الإنساني بقنصلية جنوب السودان في الخرطوم، 15 ديسمبر.

How are South Sudanese faring in Sudan?

There are South Sudanese people in about 31 voluntary return camps around Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri and their humanitarian situation is horrible. They are isolated and they feel hopeless since they have lost all of their possessions. They are living in tents made of nylon which cannot withstand the rain. Honestly, their situation is beyond description. The government is not providing them with any humanitarian aid.

Which government do you mean?

I mean the governments of Sudan and South Sudan, especially the former as it is the host country and South Sudan should also provide support.

How do they make a living?

Most South Sudanese people in the camps rely on making local alcohol, which makes the camps a target for Sudanese authorities as brewing alcohol is against the teachings of Islam which constitutes the Sudanese Constitution. South Sudanese women in Sudan are the breadwinners. They make money from making and selling local alcohol and the South Sudanese men admit that.  

What does the government of South Sudan, represented by its embassy in Sudan, provide for its people?

We have full coordination with the State of Khartoum, but the aid provided is not enough. The humanitarian organisations working in Sudan are not independent. All the support is provided through the Sudanese government.

How many South Sudanese people are in need of support in Sudan?

It is difficult to estimate that number. The border with Sudan is open and the South Sudanese are entering Sudan on a daily basis. However, their number before the war was ranging between 93,000 and 110,000 most of whom were at the White Nile Camps and the rest has integrated with the Sudanese society.

The Sudanese government recently said the displaced people should be removed from Al-Shajara and Azouzab, what happened? Does Khartoum still insist on that?

In this regard, we set conditions for the Sudanese government before removing them.

What conditions, and why should the displaced be removed from these areas?

We demanded that the government provide drinking water, water closets and tents but the government was busy at the time with the floods which swept through northern and eastern Sudan and some areas of Khartoum.

As for the reason of eviction, the government said these areas are on the railroad line of the circular transport train and the South Sudanese obstruct establishing it.

The displacement of many South Sudanese to Sudan meant that many children could no longer go to school. Has the embassy remedied that?

The biggest challenge was paying tuition fees. South Sudanese should pay for the education of their children despite the fact they do not have jobs. We have tried to make the humanitarian organisations pay the tuition fees for some students, but the government controls these organisations and the Ministry of Education refused to open new schools for the South Sudanese.

Education is in English in South Sudan while Sudan teaches in Arabic. How can this problem be resolved?

The most important thing for students is to finish their basic education regardless of language. To that end, we want peace as soon as possible so people can return to their country and start a new life.

The South Sudanese Embassy opened an office for passports and nationalities in eastern Sudan. Why was this office opened far from the capital?

It is a mobile team rather than an office. It will continue its work for three months. It was opened after the embassy found out that there are 38,000 South Sudanese people in eastern Sudan, scattered in Kassala, Ghadarif, Khashm and Karba and other areas, who are unable to get documentation to prove their identity as South Sudanese. Therefore, it was necessary to give them the opportunity to get nationality documentation and passports for students and all South Sudanese people in eastern Sudan.

Many South Sudanese said measures to get passports and nationalities may take three to four months more compared to Juba. What is your comment?

When passports and nationalities took a long time to be prepared, the embassy would provide the people with statements proving their identities.

Many South Sudanese feel they mix well enough with the Sudanese society. What do you think?

Frankly, self-respect and admitting the fact that they are foreigners are very essential. However, the South Sudanese have a strange feeling that they are still Sudanese people. When the South Sudanese respect themselves, the host country will respect them.

What do you say to South Sudanese in Sudan?

You should inform the embassy if you have any problems while you are in Sudan. We are here at the service of the South Sudanese people.