Refugee: "I'm doomed to life at way station"
July 12, 2011 11:06 am EDT
After fleeing attacks by government soldiers at his home in Gambella region of Ethiopia when he was in high school, Obang Ojulu, 29, has lived most of his adult life as a refugee. Since leaving home in 2003, Ojulu has married and has a child and acquired a driver's licence but he remains at a way station in Malakal, capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile state, with about 80 other Anuak families.
Ojulu spoke to IRIN about why he cannot return home:
"I remember government soldiers coming to our area in Gambella and shooting hundreds of people, mostly those from my community, the Anuak. Some people called it genocide.
"When the attacks intensified, it became hard for me and the rest of the students to remain in school. I dropped out and, together with other members of my family, we tried to escape. However, I got separated from my parents, whom I have not seen since.
"I tagged along other fleeing families and, slowly, we made our way to Sudan. I made it to the way station [in Dagarshufu area] in Malakal in 2007 and I have been here since then.
"Although we get food rations from UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency], life at the way station is not easy; when the rations are delayed or when we don't get the full rations, we have to survive by doing casual work in town. Water is scarce, especially when the bowser does not deliver, forcing us to rely on water that we fetch from the nearby River Nile.
"Right now, it has been two weeks since the bowser delivered water; when we have chlorine tablets, we just drop it into the water we fetch from the river; when we don't have the tablets we use a cloth to filter the water into the containers we store it in.
"Since our arrival here, only one Anuak student has made it to secondary school although we get help from UNICEF [UN Children's Fund] to keep our young children in primary school.
"My wife does not work; and the driver's licence I have does not help much because I cannot get work as a refugee. We hear there are plans to settle some of us here in South Sudan; we don't know when this will happen.
"I would be happy to remain here because I am afraid to return home. I also know there is a case going on about the 2003 killings in Gambella [the Anuak Justice Council, an umbrella organization for the Anuak, has filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court over the 2003 killings in Gambella]; I am watching its development and waiting for its outcome so as to be able to decide whether or not to go back.
"For the time being, I am doomed to life at this way station. If I were Sudanese, like other Sudanese Anuak returning from the north, I would be resettled but since I am Ethiopian, I will remain here. It is a life in limbo."
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