THE BLOG

From a Former Child Soldier, Why We Must End the Violence in South Sudan

04/03/2014 01:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2014

South Sudan's current civil war claimed over 20,000 innocent lives according to New York Times and UN reports. A million are scattered to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. And nearly three millions are displaced (Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs) across the nation, surviving on nothing, without water or food.

Given the current situation, I want the world to understand where I came from and why I care. I want to tell the story of my long journey -- from war child, refugee and one of the Lost Boys of Sudan -- to where I am now. I want people to know of my journey back to South Sudan to vote for the first time, after 18 years, which will remain an indelible memory.

I learned how to use weapons before I could read and write. It was not my decision, it happened simply because, during the civil war, there were no schools, so that AK-47s in our hands replaced our pens and books. This happened partly in order for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to protect ordinary citizens from our former enemy, North Sudan, not to fight amongst ourselves. But, in the end, many who were granted access to such a powerful machine gun used that force irresponsibly.

The saying goes, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people." And it's so true.

I am writing this piece because I want to protect the new republic that the U.S. pushed hard for, because I am a survivor in our second war with North Sudan, and because I understand first hand the horrors of violence, and I want to protect our future generations from the same nightmares I experienced.

Since my family is still in South Sudan, I have a very different understanding of what is going on the ground from what we hear on the news. I would like to help world leaders and the South Sudanese government better understand what the country needs, and to help them protect all the innocent lives at risk in this conflict. I learned about civil war firsthand, and I thought it was over, but today -- as I am writing this article -- some innocent victims can't even move freely from the capital (Juba) and the United Nation Mission to bury their family. Children are not going to school because of the political unrest and instability in Juba.

Enough blood has been spilled in 100 days.

In Rwanda, almost a million people died in 100 days.

The Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) are calling on you, on every ordinary citizen to focus on South Sudan, and do everything to foster compassion, empathy and peace. My wish is to be a catalyst, to push for solutions, to broker peace talks, to ensure accountability, especially for those who committed and are still organizing unspeakable crimes. The Addis Ababa peace deal signed in January, 2014 was a setback to those suffering in Juba. South Sudan's leaders failed their people.

With hope and kindness, I am asking for your help to get this message to your local newspaper. I want everyone to know that the current leadership is South Sudan is incapable of uniting the country. We want peace and development in all 10 states of South Sudan -- we don't want military backing. I believe the President should be pressured by world leaders to stop this senseless, tribal war.

I ask simply because it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do because of South Sudan and because instability in the country can and will destabilize the whole region, and potentially hurt international and U.S. interests in the long run. South Sudan's leaders should have the understanding that the completion of the CPA in 2005 marks the beginning of our mission to help rebuild our new nation, not the end.

I have been asked to share my story, but it's not easy. It takes an extraordinary toll on me to re-live my experiences, the horrors of my past and the pain I had to endure. And yet, I believe remembering is the only way to promote healing, to promote awareness and accountability.

I was lucky enough to escape and to find a new life but what about the million others in South Sudan with no opportunity to heal? If the conflict continues at this speed, this new nation could potentially exceed the horrors of Rwanda and Somalia. Hate will remain the building block of our nation. After the world repeated so many times "Never Again" and vowed to be united against genocide, we cannot accept to remain bystanders to this bloodshed. We must -- at all costs -- raise awareness of this conflict and promote unity.

Because time is running out.

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