Friday September 2 2016

VIDEO: The faces of South Sudan war

By Raymond Mujuni

The NTV newsroom kept a timer at the exit corridor. The timer, black and rectangle-long flickered with red digits and was most seen during crunch hours.

We were required to drop in our stories at least 30 minutes before the bulletin but the business of news knows no time. The breaking stories would pilfer through the news desk and onto the bulletin.

South Sudan was just that story. It was never clear whether the country had a full grip on its peace. So many journalists, me inclusive, kept a tab on the developments.

8:47pm

"Shooting is being reported in Juba" I muttered to Maurice Mugisha, our news manager.

Maurice is a brown skinned, 5feet or so tall fellow. He has a fast pair of hands for both his phone and keyboards. On many evenings, he'd leave his corner office with folded sleeves to dig into the incomplete stories of the bulletin.

"Isn't that a normal thing" he responded. Maurice was the guy you told if you wanted breaking news in the bulletin.
South Sudan had shot it's way - literally - to independence from the controversial Khartoum government. The referendum for its independence had come after years of fighting and loss of lives. When the guns went quiet, the Sudan war had been the longest civil war of the human scope. Hundreds of thousands had been killed and millions displaced.

The faces of war were in almost every corner of the region. In refugee camps of Adjumani, down to businesses in Elegu and in air-conditioned expensive cars.

South Sudan's numbers internationally were also worrying; 7 in 10 had no access to an education and only 1 in 10 had finished the basic level education.
The UN mission there recorded grim figures of just about everything. From immunization to child birth to deaths during child birth.

The country certainly, according to many reports, needed a strong leadership.

On one evening, shielded in the leafy environs of a diplomat's residence, we'd mooted (and shelved) the idea of visiting the country to do a comprehensive report.


I didn't know that day was drawing close.
Two mornings after telling Maurice, he dispatched me with my colleague Solomon Kaweesa to the border town of Elegu where by now, hundreds of refugees were crossing, fleeing the war.
It is here that we first met Alex Kinyi.

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When the first war in South Sudan broke out in 2013, government together with UNHCR had puddled up a small reception Centre at the Elegu border.

It was folded well into a barbed wire fence and stood at two buildings.

The walls were still creaming in clean paint and the building was parceled out into many rooms.

We'd be ushered into the Centre by a haggard guard who waved his AK-47 signalling us to drive through the gate.

On the inside, small children ran around a fagged ball as others skipped ropes. There was a semblance of a community. Their mothers looked on in worrying glance. For some reason, there were only two adult males in the Centre - Kinyi was one of them.


"Most of the men and boys stay back to fight" Kinyi explained to us.

"Anyone can fight in South Sudan, even the babies" he added in quick succession.

Kinyi had been a civil servant for the World's youngest government. He'd schooled in Uganda and at the time of independence, 2013, his Bachelors in Social Science pitted him above many of the applicants.

He’d however find himself on his heels at the reception centre with only a shirt, short and brown strap flats to live with.
After interviewing Kinyi, we rushed back to Gulu town to file the story before the flickering red digital clock ruled our story out of the news that evening.

Our journey into the South Sudan story, unknown to us, had started.

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