In the year 2000, Unity State in South Sudan was at war. Years later I learned that it was named the War of Peters (Peter Par Jiek and Peter Gatdet) each commanding his forces. The war claimed many lives and the livelihood of the people was shattered. My parents randomly ran us through the river “Jaang” (locally called by the natives) by canoe. After covering half of our journey, my parents discovered that the canoe had a hole that leaked water into the canoe. Imagine this discovery in the middle of the river in a heavy storm.
Rivers of Tears
At that time, it was my junior brother John, an infant and me at three years old plus our parents. We cried our last tears on seeing the wave’s storm filing our canoe full of water. My Mum helped to fetch out the water while my Dad struggled to guide the canoe to the bank, but all was in vain because of the heavy storm. My parents had a level of confidence and bravery which impressed me greatly. As the storm increased, my parents refused to jump out of the canoe to save their own lives.
Rescue from an Opponent
We were very fortunate that friends of my Dad who are from the Dinka tribe rescued us. We are from the Nuer tribe. Oftentimes the two tribes see themselves as opponents but that day they proved to be true brothers.
Life Saving Sacrifice
This was a very life changing moment as I observed an opposing tribe actually reaching out to save us. This sacrifice on their part has caused me to always look for the positive contributions of a people. In South Sudan, tribes are always at war. Generalizations and stereotypes of various tribes should not be made but rather, the good of the people should be observed. Had these people not come, our canoe was surely going to capsize and our father was going to perish with us.
A Reflection on Life
You read this story today because an opposing tribe saved our dear lives. My Dad’s friends quickly helped us cross over to the river bank.
Once we were safely out of the water, I looked at my younger brother and tried to be brave. The pressure and emotions of the experience left me shaking. The friends of my Dad left and we found a hut next to the river bank.
Reactions from Friends
What surprised me when I posted the story on Facebook was the feeling of connection my audience had with the story. One friend commented expressing how the said war separated him from his mother who was attending to his uncle who was shot during the war. He narrated that he was less than two years old when that conflict happened forcing him to leave breast milk unwillingly due to mother’s distance.
The second comment was from a current top army commander in South Sudan who loved the story expressing it as an interesting story of peace between tribes.
My American writing mentor cannot understand the never-ending tribal wars in Africa and is grateful the opposing tribe showed compassion and the love of God.
Gor Buor writing as M. Jilang