Sarah Deng:
Life of Sudanese Refugees





Chelsey Overstreet

This semester at Millsaps, I was given the opportunity to enroll in a class called “Sudan: A World in Conflict.”  I had always heard about the tragedies in Sudan, but I had never actually studied them in an academic setting.  When I saw that this class was being offered, and that it had a service learning component, I was eager to sign up.  In class we studied the history of Sudan and the root causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars that have been the cause of the majority of the country’s distress.   We also read African folktales, African short stories, and a novel about a Sudanese Lost Boy.  The class has taught me to not give up hope for war torn countries such as Sudan.  We had the unique opportunity to witness the beginning of this hope in February of this year.  On February 7, 2011 thousands of Sudanese-Americans voted on a referendum that would allow Southern Sudan to secede from Northern Sudan in July of 2011.  The Southern Sudanese voted to secede by a landslide.   Hopefully Southern Sudan will peacefully and successfully secede from Northern Sudan leading to the gradual recovery of Southern Sudan.

An aspect of the class was the service learning.  I was given the unique opportunity to tutor a smart and wonderful person-Sarah Deng.  I have never had the opportunity to tutor anyone before, so this was a learning experience for me as well.  I enjoyed every minute I spent with Sarah.  She taught me about her country and its customs, and I taught her a few things about action and helping verbs.  Through tutoring Sarah, I could begin to see how difficult it must have been for her to attend high school while learning English at the same time.  Occasionally, I helped her with Anatomy and Physiology homework.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be for her to pronounce A&P terms when it is difficult for English speakers to pronounce them.  

She decided to write an essay about herself and her friend Rebecca and their time in Uganda.  She said that it is important to her that people learn about Sudan.  Sarah and Rebecca fled from Sudan to Uganda when they were young.  They lived in a refugee camp and attended school in the nearby town.  This essay describes some of their experiences in Uganda.


Life of Sudanese Refugees
Sarah Deng

Since the inception of the second civil war in Sudan, the lives of Southern Sudanese have not been good.  In 1983, the pace of the second civil war started in Southern and Northern Sudan.  The Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA), the military wing of the Sudan people liberation movement (SPLM), started the war. 

The main causes of civil war were related to the misinterpretation of mass population in the government, religious affiliation, sharing of national resources and oil, just to mention a few.  The northern regime in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, enforced Shari’a law, the Islamic or Muslim law based on the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book.  The national Islamic front (NIF) enforced all Islamic agendas to change southerners to Islamic doctrine.  The regime didn’t only enforce Islam, but also enslaved southerners as a means of ensuring Islamization and Arabization.

The war caused a lot of death which resulted in the loss of two and a half million lives.  It also resulted in the displacement of more than four million.  The mass population of Southerners scattered to some east African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Congo.

Sarah Aluel and Rebecca Anyieth were among the few who arrived safely in northern Uganda.  The lives of refugees were not so good.  They encountered many situations such as the shortage of food, lack of medicines and health facilities, and aggravated assault from local people.  Most of the children died of malnutrition and other related sickness.  The northern Sudanese that supported the regime in Khartoum were also against the Southern Sudanese refugees in Uganda.  They misinformed the local people by saying that the southerners had no problems at home but instead come here only to steal and take others land.

As a result of all the misinformation from northern intellectuals, many students in Uganda faced discrimination at local schools.  Sarah and Rebecca were among those students who were being discriminated against.  Their parents were able to support tuitions and other basic needs, but they still faced many problems.  Some of those problems were that they robbed the girls’ money, clothes and other basic needs at school.  The boys were jailed for no apparent reasons and got charged at local courts.  Some of the students were brutally beaten to death, and some died later from related torturing.

Apart from being students, the other refugees faced many problems such as a lack of bathroom.  Many Ugandans just use the natural landscape as a restroom.  So do the Sudanese refugees.  The authorities discriminated southern Sudanese and humiliated anyone they caught doing this.  They made them carry human feces in their hand and over charge them whenever necessary. 

After all of the discrimination against southern Sudanese, Sarah and Rebecca plus six other students consulted local churches about a place to worship.  The church ministers thought based on their ages that they didn’t know anything about God almighty.  As they insisted to inquire, the priest granted them a place to worship.  After that, the spirit of God worked out, and they became friendly with the local people.  This friendship came about when the local people learned that the southern Sudanese were good believers and followers of Jesus Christ.

Everything changed then drastically and they became good people.  The people of Uganda realized that they were misinformed by northern intellectuals, and returned their love again to southern Sudanese refugees.  They became so in love with them that they didn’t want them to leave even if their time came.  They became the best people they ever met. 

In conclusion, the civil war that started on May 16, 1983 resulted in the loss of many generations.  The north and south fought for the differences of religion, oil, and other things which fueled up the conflict. Two and a half million lives were lost and four million were displaced.  Even though many refugees have different stories depending on the country in which they resided.  They have faced a lot of problems.  The refugees faced problems though they thought they would be saved, but they still have the same problems.  Sarah and Rebecca got married to Lost Boys and their lives changed in the United States as well.