“We smuggled bullets” : Women recall days in liberation struggle
They held on to their crutches and walking sticks just to signify their age advancement as well as the torrid consequences of the liberation war they survived and lived to remember.
As South Sudan marked independence day on Saturday, at least 50 widows of war veterans in Bor were also refreshing the minds of the younger generation with their grim encounters with the wars of liberation. Here, they gave accounts of being penned in books, albeit in minutes.
Mary Akec Maketh, a widow who lost her husband during the liberation, recalled the suffering they went through when they fled the country to Khartoum.
She said the majority of those who fled war during the struggle to Khartoum were abused, and some men were castrated and denied the right to see their generations.
Mary narrated that some parents had their children taken away and given to Arab women for adoption as grandchildren.
“When he went to the bush, John Garang Mabior stated that the land is ours not for Arabs. So…we migrated from Khartoum,” she recalled.
“Even though he is gone, he will not blame himself for fighting the cost of freeing the land and for the future generation to be free and do any free will as the citizens of South Sudan,” Mary said.
“You are the future generation that gave us power and encouraged us to take up arms against Sudan leadership so that our children are not be oppressed by Arabs and everyone who died for the land and for their children to have freedom.”
For Mary, being the weaker sex did not diminish her role as a freedom fighter: she used to help the soldiers by smuggling bullets and food to them.
She urged the youth to be law-abiding citizens, saying it is their role to serve their country despite challenges.
A veteran woman who served 23 years in the military, Ayen Alier Malual, said she joined the military at the age of 15 years old.
She said after receiving some military training, she walked on foot up to Jebel Nuba to join the armed group.
“We want the government to empower women because the women have also contributed to the liberation of this country and no matter how desperate people were sometimes they find courage in soldier’s unions,” Ayen stated.
“I walked for 24 days to Jebel Nuba and sustained wounds but that did not stop me from having hope in our country’s leadership even though,’’ she remarked.
‘‘I have a piece of land to call my home but I still believe that the government of South Sudan and the soldiers will turn this around,” she said.
Adau Rachel, the chairperson of the Women’s Rights Organization Network, said the independence day was the day they liberated the country as women by carrying water and food for the soldiers on the frontline.
“Today we are celebrating the independence day with women with disabilities because women with disabilities are neglected and discriminated against in the community from other kinds of activities,” Adau said.
Adau urged the government and humanitarian agencies to include women with disabilities in capacity building and economic empowerment.
Care International organized the sit-together that brought all women across Jonglei State on independence day with funding from Canada’s global affairs.