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Students caught up in Sudan conflict narrates disturbing experience

By Adia Jildo

On April 15, Joseph Malook, 22 years old, and his colleagues, who were on a government scholarship in Khartoum woke up to the thunderous sounds of guns, and warplanes flying all over.

Joseph was caught up in an apartment in Amarat residential area, together with his 13 fellow students, where they spent days without any help. They called the South Sudan Embassy in Sudan for help, but all in vain.

Flying bullets broke the students’ windows, forcing them to assemble in one room.

The fear of being in a horrifying situation without the presence of his parents worried him, as he could not bear the strength to even tell the family about the incident.

“The first two hours were unbearable. I was told to lie down by my other colleagues. I lost hope as I continued to hear the sounds of guns and planes flying over,” he says.

“I could not believe that I was facing an experience I had never experienced in my whole life. It was scaring; it was hard to believe that this is a life we are going to leave until we are rescued.”

But he got the strength and called his father, Marial Kuot, to assure them of his safety and his whereabouts in Khartoum.

Conflict broke out in Khartoum on April 15 between Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the Rapid Support Forces, and the head of the Sudan Armed Forces, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting, and more than a million people have fled their homes since the conflict began, according to the United Nations.

“We were afraid that anything would happen to any of us at any time, from stray bullets to house shelling to hunger. We were also very hungry; all we got was rice and charcoal without any other thing when we were called outside to buy or take from what the soldiers offered,” Joseph narrated.

Another student, Charles Lam who was also on government scholarships recounted a very appalling scenario.

In a video interview with the students in their apartment, the students are seen lying hopelessly under the bed on the floor, and their windows broken.

“We are residing in Amarat, which is more insecure. There is no way out for the embassy to help us.”

Lam says they tried calling the education and cultural attaché at the South Sudanese Embassy to help us, but they are not able to help as they are also stuck.

“We called so that we could be evacuated because the place is very dangerous. We are just here. We do not have electricity, no water, we are starving, there are no food items in the house, and we are just staying at home,” he says.

“A lot of people are in Khartoum, not only South Sudanese. People are dying of crossfires; we might even starve.”

The dangerous journey

Joseph says that after a house next to their apartment was bombed, they decided to take the risky journey to South Sudan.

Joseph, along with some of his friends, left the house one morning after three of the students left.

“We moved next to the wall until guy 53 (scared of the stray bullets) got a bus to take nine of us to the bus station. As we travelled, the soldiers who checked the vehicle let us go as there were only South Sudanese in the car,” Joseph narrated.

With the money his uncle sent him, Joseph was able to travel for 3 days from Khartoum to Paloch, where he got a plane that was donated by a well-wisher to transport those who entered the border areas and wanted to reach Juba.

“At the airport, it was the worst. I stayed for 5 days, my brother for 7 days, and the other 5 stayed for 4 days. We would be in line waiting to enter, and when we were almost there, we would be sent back. It was a struggle that at one point we had to use our minds to get spaces,” he narrated, remembering the horror of his escape.

Landing in Juba

It was a relief for Joseph after just entering the border.

“My mother was the first I could call since she was most affected when she heard about the crisis.

“I was really relieved, but again, my mind was still letting me down as I remembered all that I saw when fleeing,” he said.

“I hardly sleep because of the memories, the sounds of guns, jets flying above, and always dreaming about the terror.”

Joseph reached Juba in the afternoon using a donated plane chartered by a well-wisher. His uncle, who had been coordinating with him when he was in Khartoum, received him.

“I was going to join my third year this August, and this was going to be my last year as this was a diploma course. All I hope is for the fight to stop so that we can continue where we stopped,” he said.

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