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Martha Anger, 20 years old, had to run away from the little village in South Sudan to save her life, and the life of the child she bore in her womb. Her daughter, Nyaring, who today is three months old, was born in Uganda, and her name in Dinka means ‘fugitive’.
“Those days have left an indelible mark on my life, what happened to me I wouldn’t have thought possible, and I don’t think I will ever forget it. Some men in military uniform and armed with AK-47 rifles burst into our village, it was evening and they made everyone come out of their homes. There were a dozen of them or maybe more, they began to shoot without first telling us what it was all about, what was the problem. Everyone began running, with the bullets flying all around. My birth pains had just begun but they stopped at once. What I remember was a cold shiver going up my spine while I dropped on my knees repeating to myself: “God have pity on my baby!”.
A few moments later, when Martha reopened her eyes, she realized that her prayers were not going to be answered, those who were still alive were trying to get away, and what a short time before had been a normal road was now a mass of bodies and blood, the noise of shooting interrupted only by cries and groans.
“That was the moment that I decided to try my luck and attempt to get away. I ran and ran, I ran as hard as my legs would carry me, I could hear the bullets whistling around my head but I didn’t stop, not even when I felt the birth pangs coming back. I stopped when I came to a stream, I couldn’t run any further, my heart was beating like crazy and the contractions had started again and getting stronger.”
Martha decided to follow the stream and seek shelter in the forest, where she met other survivors like herself, many injured. This short moment of respite also served to try and get information about the rest of her family, to see what had remained of them, before setting off again.
“I was told that nine of my family had been seriously injured and eleven had died during the raid. Two of the wounded died that night, in the forest. At the first light of dawn we decided to set off for Uganda, my contractions were less frequent now so we started to move. We stayed in the forest, a long way away from the roads for fear of coming across groups of insurgents.”
Martha arrived in Uganda on 3 January and there she gave birth to her baby daughter. Today she lives at the Dzaipi Reception Centre together with her daughter.
“I’m living in Uganda now and I’m a refugee, and the mother of a baby who will never have a father and a grandmother, everything is new for me. Life is very hard in the reception centre, there are problems with clothes, food, water, and I really wish there was a way of helping my country to find peace again, so that I can return home. The world should see and realize what is happening in South Sudan where women, old people and children are suffering so much because of the war. I don’t know if I will ever meet the soldiers who killed our people. If I do I will tell them they have dishonoured South Sudan, but in order to reconstruct our country I’m prepared to pardon them and reconcile myself with them so that I can return to the land that I belong to.”
Martha’s story, broadcast by Irinnews, is a brave appeal for national reconciliation, which unfortunately still seems a long way off.