Delivered from danger during a war

After decades of civil war, South Sudan attained independence in 2011. Originally from Kenya, I did humanitarian work in South Sudan for ten years before and after its independence, and the country became my second home. At times I faced life-threatening challenges, but out of compassion for the suffering people my organization served, I stayed on. Then, in December 2013 violence broke out again, with the South Sudanese fighting among themselves.

On a warm Sunday afternoon, a colleague and I were resting in a hotel lounge waiting for a flight back to the capital city, Juba, after completing a training workshop in Malakal. As we waited, we received news that heavy fighting had erupted in Juba following a political disagreement and that all flights had been suspended. We would have to wait at the hotel until calm returned to the capital.

Over the course of a single day, a full-blown conflict developed. On the second day, it was reported that the conflict was escalating, with the possibility of spreading to other regions, and taken on an ethnic dimension. Although the fighting had not yet reached Malakal, the second largest city in South Sudan, panic and confusion engulfed residents. The hotel management decided to reduce the amount of food they served guests because they weren’t sure when it would be possible to restock. They also gave notice that should the war reach Malakal, the hotel would not be responsible for the safety of guests.

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