Quarantines were in force long before the outbreak of the pandemic that originated in Wuhan back in 2019. One of our editors, Daniel Wizenberg, traveled to Kakuma, Kenya, home to one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In Swahili, Kakuma means ‘nowhere’. It is isolated from the rest of the country, from the rest of the continent; it is a place hard to get to and even harder to get out of. People get there fleeing a war and they get out of it escaping the endless wait. Ever since 1991 it has been the temporary home of people who enroll on a list seeking asylum. Nonetheless, just a small number of them manage to make it. Kakuma is a limbo in which there are currently nearly 200,000 refugees. At a time when the whole world sometimes has come to a halt, awaiting, Dente has something to show us.
Dente comes from the youngest country in the world. It succeeded in breaking away from Sudan just five years ago, becoming independent after two decades marked by war: the Second Sudanese Civil War
South Sudan had already gained its autonomy back in 2005, when the government of its northern neighbor signed a ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ which made it possible to conduct a referendum. However, it achieved its independence later on, in 2011.
There is no happy medium. History has been torn between draughts and flooding. The latter has become somewhat chronic lately, affecting around 300,000 people on an almost permanent basis. Water is an issue in all respects. Out of 3 million inhabitants, just half of them has access to drinking water.
South Sudan is a republic that, at the beginning of the second decade of this century, seemed to be heading towards democracy. Nevertheless, that attempt failed dismally, mainly as a result of religious and ethnic conflicts. The scenario is marked by the coexistence of a variety of ethnic groups and religions, and a tense atmosphere. Black people, Christians, and Animists all live together, yet the ones who truly reject each other are the Dinka and the Nuer, the two most prominent ethnic groups.
In fact, the country’s president and vice-president come from these two ethnicities: Salva Kiir and Riek Mach. Each of them are their homeland’s heroes and villains at the same time. Between the two, they managed to achieve independence, but then they took the country to an internal war, only to reconcile again later on. However, they were no longer in control of their men by then. Their sides became Balkanized and split into tens of new groups and new guerrillas commanded by other leaders. At present the fight is among them all, and religion or politics are used as secondary arguments. Every faction fights for survival. The situation is so wildly out of control that last year one of the guerrilla groups even broke into the main hospital of Malakal —the country’s capital city— and slaughtered most of the patients while still in their beds.
Everyone who has had the chance to flee the country has already done so. There are more than 720,000 of them abroad. The rest were left behind, trapped.
South Sudan depends on oil, but with a debilitated government, the monopoly of violence is largely exercised by the militia.
Nevertheless, Dente has a plan of his own. And he talks about it in first person:
I have calculated the time it may take, the target audience, and the place of implementation. According to my calculations, it takes twenty thousand dollars to solve the water and food issues in my community. I am thirty-two years, I don’t have a lot of time left; my idea is to save the life of five hundred thousand Sudanese people by purifying their drinking water, and by designing a watering system so they can create small vegetable gardens to become self-sustainable.
An American catholic NGO, Catholic Relief Services, has pre-approved financing the project. If it is to be confirmed, I could go back to my town with a planning horizon. I am very close to achieving it.
Managing to do something like this is very hard while being here, you know?
That’s why I have written down the following recommendations for the life of anybody, parting from my own experience. Check this out:
One: Don’t compare yourself to anybody else in this world. If you do so, you’ll be insulting yourself.
Two: A lock is not created without a key. Likewise, God would not give you problems without a solution to them as well.
Three: Life smiles at you when you make other people happy.
Four: Behind every successful person there’s a painful story.
Five: Accept pain and get ready for success. Almost all success stories started out as painful ones.
Six: It is easy to protect your feet wearing sneakers. Or to cover dust using a carpet. However, nobody can turn back time and cover a bad start. Yet anybody can get begin now and create a successful ending.
Seven: Sometimes problems cannot be solved and that’s it.
Eight: If you’ve missed an opportunity, don’t cry. A new and better one will come up your way at any moment.
Nine: When faced with a problem, don’t put on a sad face. Just face it differently.
Ten: Instead of complaining about other people, change yourself if you need peace.
Eleven: Mistakes are very painful once they’ve been made. Yet the collection of mistakes we made in a year are called ‘experience’.
Twelve: Be brave when defeated. Keep calm when you win.
Thirteen: You can always get something valuable out of something else. Gold becomes part of decorations, whipped copper is made into wires, and stones are used to create statues. So, the more pain you get in life, the more opportunities you may have to make something valuable out of them.
I don’t remember if I’ve said my full name. I am Dente Moding Galdo. I was born in Torit, in the state / Estado de Moton, in South Sudan.
*A version of this text was published in the book titled ”Those Who Wait”, by Daniel Wizenberg, illustrated by Alina Najlis.
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