Caritas International  The story of Justin Malis

© Tommy Trenchard

14/04/2017

"I was so afraid"

Last August, Justin Malis and his village came under attack during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. After the killings, Justin knew the time had come to save his family. That same day, he piled fifty members of his extended family (including baby Flora, pictured) into a truck and headed south for the Ugandan border.

There was little time to gather belongings, and what they did have they lost on the way. When they eventually arrived in Bidi Bidi refugee camp, 40km inside Uganda, they had nothing. Now they have a simple home, a plot of land to grow food, and most important of all, safety.

“In Gimono all the houses were burned down by government soldiers. Even the food in the houses was burned. They just came and started shooting. They killed three people. I was so afraid.”

Justin and his family had escaped one of the most war-ravaged, desperate places on earth. South Sudan  is the world’s youngest nation, having won independence only six years ago, yet it is a deeply militarised state riven by deadly political infighting.

In July 2016 violence flared yet again in the capital, Juba, shattering a fragile peace accord, and quickly spread to surrounding areas. Rival militias have been roaming the countryside, terrorising the population and killing indiscriminately. Survivors attest to mass atrocities.

There are currently 1.83 million South Sudanese who, like Justin and his family, have fled for their lives. “I don’t know when we’ll be able to go back to South Sudan,” reflects Justin, holding his daughter tightly.

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