Tears and joy as stray girl reunites with family

By: Mandela Nelson Denis

Like many South Sudanese families that got affected by the then Sudan civil war, Kiden’s family has been living in a South Sudanese community in Masindi District, Nyabyeya (Western Uganda) for decades. Many haven’t even seen South Sudan. Judith Kiden Kenyi is one of such.

Born in 2004 and brought up in Uganda where she leaves with her mother and grandmother, she knew that at one point, she would be made to travel to South Sudan, after her elder brother, Gerald Mansuk Lo Rume (Manzu) permanently moved to South Sudan.

Kiden studies in Kinyara Secondary School, in Masindi. Her family wanted to get her documents so that she could register for S.4 this coming February. She had to travel with her elder brother, Duku Ronald Kenyi on Saturday 11th, boarding from Kigumba to Juba. This was her first Journey outside Masindi. This was her first longest trip.

The two reached the Uganda/ South Sudan border point on Sunday, 12th of January 2019 in the morning.

At the time of border clearance, unfortunately, given the busy traffic in the area, Duku lost contact with Judith to cross the border while he got himself cleared, hoping that he could meet her on the other side of the border.

Stranded on the South Sudanese border point of Nimule with no phone, no memorized phone number and no money, she wondered what had happened to her brother. At this point, she couldn’t tell where her brother was. But she could clearly tell that she was already in South Sudan (Nimule).

She then developed a feeling that perhaps she could get to Juba on her own. She only knew that her Aunt (Unlike her father, she was raised up in the then Sudan) lived in Gudelle 2.

She approached a female police officer who then directed her to the main Police station. Asked about anyone she knows in Juba, she said she knew Rose Woro, her Aunt in Gudele 2 and convinced the police that she actually knew the home, only that she had lost track of her brother. The buses had already left Nimule to Juba.

She was put on a lorry truck enroute to Nesitu. One police officer was assigned to travel with her along till Nesitu. She was also given 300 South Sudanese Pounds.

On reaching Nesitu, the police directed her to the Taxi Park in Nisitu where she boarded to Gumbo.

Then she heard conductors shouting Gudele – Gudele – Gudele, the same area where her aunt stays. She boarded but her budget could only allow her to travel until Gudele One. She saw the sign, Gudele one and knew that she had to move on to Gudele 2.

She started walking and searching for a police station. It was already late, approaching 8 PM. She spotted some policemen and approached them. The officers asked her where she was heading to. She then said she was going home to Gudele 2, but had no money. The officers said it was getting late, and that she should spend the night with them.

She was taken to a temporary risen police tent. But deep inside her, she knew that she wasn’t safe. Only a police structure with the bold writings of Police, was what she considered safe.

Kiden said she tricked the policemen and told them she was going to look for someone in the park, promising to return back.

She decided to run away from them, because she thought she wasn’t safe. She started looking for a police sign board, but needed to drink some water. She approached a woman who sold food along the road in Gudele one. The woman only spoke Arabic and Dinka. Kiden only knew how to greet and say Arabi mafi! The woman also replied, Engilisi mafi! Luckily enough though, she called her two daughters who were students and helped with the translation. Asked about where she was heading to, she said she was going to Gudele 2, but was hungry and needed to drink some water too. She was given food and water with no bills. She was also given money to transport her to Gudele 2. Kind woman!

While in Gudele 2, she looked for the police station in Gudele 2 and marched straight inside, narrated her story. She was given where to sleep. She slept in an empty room with no bed, but she was safe.

In the morning of Monday, January 13th, police officers who hail from her ancestral land were called to interview her. She described where her grandmother hails from (Nyepo county in Kajo-Keji). She mentioned the names of the people in her clan, but also mentioned about the South Sudanese who live in Nyabyeya, which is a South Sudanese community in Masindi, Western Uganda, populated mainly by people from her ancestral land.

Luckily, one of the officers knew a number of South Sudanese who were living in the above said community. The names Kiden mentioned marched the identities of the people the officer had known. Soon, another police officer was brought in, and he knew who the details of the grandfather of Kiden, including details of her Aunt, Rose Woro and her phone number.

Rose Woro was called and notified. Together with the family members, she hadn’t slept the previous night. Her home was about 3 Kilometres from the Gudelle 2 Police station.

Kiden was able to recognize her Aunt from a distance as she approached the interior of the station. Rose Woro had visited her brother’s family in Masindi in 2006, when Kiden was just 2 years old. Kiden’s father had passed on a year later (2007) but had a photo album with a picture of Rose Woro that Kiden sees quite oftentimes.

The two cried for a long time during the reunion, and later on went home. The South Sudanese community in Masindi had gathered to pray for their daughter too. Family and friends all rejoiced!

After learning about the disappearance of his younger sister, Gerald Mansuk Lo Rume wished he could do something. A Teaching Assistant at the University of Juba and a student in Japan, he decided to use Social media to reach out to good Samaritans. He uploaded a picture of himself and the missing school girl on Facebook, where dozens of netizens showed compassion, shared and coordinated efforts along the border point of Nimule and Elegu to look for Kiden. Many Facebook and WhatsApp friends within and out of the country shared the hard moments and prayed together with the Family. All rejoiced after the Family confirmed that she had successfully managed to reach home in good health.

More appreciation goes to the South Sudanese youth on Facebook and the South Sudanese Police, not forgetting the good Samaritans along the way for her and all those who prayed with us.

Kiden advised that young girls and boys must be nurtured in such a way that communication tools should be part of their lifestyle. Following our tradition that equipping a girl child with a phone draws her nearer to marriage is so wrong. The world we are living in has changed, and we need to untie the nuts on the screws of our culture. We need to equip the girl child with the necessary tools that are important in the current context of our lives. We need to teach them how to use social media, for their own benefit too.

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