Interview with Gabriel Panchol

by Jeb White
March 2011





Gabriel was one of the most interesting interviews Kyle and I did.   Gabriel came to America in 2000 after living for eight years at the refugee camp Kakuma in Kenya.  Gabriel didn’t talk to us about America and the culture shock he experienced when he got here as much as the other Dinka men did; instead Gabriel mainly talked about Sudan and himself.  He talked to us all about the referendum for the independence of Southern Sudan, the conflict in Abeyai, and  his past.

We started off the interview talking about the Abeyai region of Sudan because an attack had occurred there a few days before.  Gabriel told us Abeyai used to be part of the South during English colonization, but now the North wants the region because it has so much oil.  He also said that Abeyai had recently voted to become part of Southern Sudan and that there were SPLA soldiers there to defend the people from attacks.  Gabriel recently visited Sudan and told us that the people of Southern Sudan are evolving and the government of Khartoum is growing weaker.  He can tell the south isn’t getting 50% of the money made from oil revenues that the government promised them in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  The people are very hopeful, though, after the referendum, especially because of the recent vote for the separation of the South from the rest of Sudan.  Gabriel also says the referendum went really well.  He feared another civil war would be started after the referendum, but says it was good for Khartoum to keep the peace because of all the different rebel groups in Sudan.

Gabriel then started to talk to us about wanting to become a soldier and fight for his country.  His father died in the SPLA, and his brother is currently an SPLA soldier.  Gabriel saw his brother in Juba while he was in Sudan; he was very excited to see his brother, who he hadn’t seen in years.  Gabriel had planned to join the army when he was younger with his brother, but his uncle has convinced him to stay and go to school.  At the beginning of the second civil war, Gabriel and his family were forced to flee from their homes.  He fled his home and began walking with the lost boys to Ethiopia, facing hardships all along the way.  When he made it to Pinyudo he began training as a soldier at 11 years old.  Gabriel was forced to flee from Ethiopia to Kenya.  Gabriel stayed in Kakuma for 8 years until he was chosen to come to Jackson.  He left Kakuma on December 3rd and arrived in America on December 5 2000.