MABORS STORY “My wife Apande and I escaped to Australia 5 years by lindahy


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									MABOR’S STORY

“My wife Apande and I escaped to Australia 5 years ago from Sudan. Our story is not
unusual; it involved hiding from potential death squads, not seeing our families for years at
a time, deprivation in camps and a constant struggle to be educated. The politics of the
Sudan are quite complicated but they are important as they explain how I became a
refugee and what happens to create the climate where fleeing is the only hope if you are
to live a life without fear or pain. The Sudan is a complex mix of religions and cultural
groups that for many years during British rule was treated as two distinct countries; the
North, which was predominantly Arab Muslims, committed to Islam while the South,
where Apande and I come from, was African which was a balance of Muslim and Christian
believers. The distress and unrest that is still a part of modern Sudan began with
independence in 1956. The British in allowing Independence dropped the divisions
between North and South and demanded that the country be one nation. The South
wanted to remain a separate entity. However with British backing the North became the
controlling government and began demanding that the South become more ‘Arabic’ in its
structures and practices. The education system was forced to be based on Islam and the
missionaries were expelled. This caused resentment in the South and a Revolutionary
group under the banner of Anya Nya 1 was formed. A guerrilla war ensued and lasted for
17 years causing much devastation, loss of life and dislocation throughout the entire
country but especially in the South.
When there was a peace agreement signed between the Southern rebels and the North in
1972 peace was welcomed. The South were to be allowed their own government, police
and wildlife force but still under the over-arching control of the Northern central
government. Yet after only one year the president of the North became a convert to
fundamentalist Islam and decreed the whole country must adhere to Sharia law. The South
refused the demands and the brief peace was broken again by disputes and conflicts. The
culmination of this tension occurred in 1983 when the Central Government in the North
repealed the 1972 decrees to the South that gave them freedoms and now public

executions and amputations were introduced. Complicating the tensions between the
South and the North was the discovery of oil in the South and the resultant claim by the
North that they would take control of its distribution. This added to the already growing
sense of anger and mistrust of the Northern central government by the South.
The Northern government then introduced a new law that declared there to be three
distinct provinces in the South. This forced peoples of different cultural and religious
backgrounds to be dislocated or in competition with each other. This new law and new
boundaries in the South caused it to effectively divide against itself and allowed the North
to gain much more control over the whole country. The Southern system collapsed and a
civil war broke out in the South with the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army and Sudanese
Peoples Liberation Movement becoming the dominant force in the civil war. At this time
when the civil war just broke out I was in Year 7. My family attempted to provide an
education for me despite the constant fear of violence and danger that was a part of our
everyday life.
By 1986 all of the south of Sudan was engulfed in civil war and the only option for my
family to help me as their eldest son was to send me to the north away from the almost
certain fate of being forced into one of the civil war armies. So I, a boy in Year 9, 15 years
old, fled alone to the North of Sudan to a boarding -school called The Lufti School, which
was designated for Southern Sudanese only. Here without any word at all about how my
father, mother and younger brother were I completed high school and did well enough to
be allowed entry to Juba University. This university had been relocated from the South to
the North due the danger and disruption of the Civil war. I began a degree in Education
and also became involved in the welfare of my fellow Southern students on the campus. I
was elected Secretary for Information and Culture for the Southern Sudanese students
and became a spokesperson for them and their concerns.
However the volatile nature of Sudanese politics revealed itself again and there was
another military coup in 1989 in the North with the Mujahadeen, a more strict and
extreme form of Islamic government, becoming the dominant political power. This new
regime began enforcing even harsher restrictions on civil liberties and also began

investigating any students at the university who were leaders or spokespeople. This made
me very nervous and I had to be careful in helping my fellow students. In 1993 in the third
year of my degree, the new government decreed that all classes must be given in Arabic.
For us from the south this discrimination meant that we could not complete our degrees
unless we learnt Arabic and read all our material in Arabic. I spoke out against these very
harsh restrictions and in 1994 was detained with a number of my fellow students for two
weeks in security cells and questioned severely over this time. I was released after two
weeks but was denied the right to travel to any other part of the country on pain of
death. Up to this time I still had had no word nor had seen my family at all. Many of my
fellow students arrested with me have never been seen since and I fear deeply for their
I stayed on at university despite the restrictions on my learning and graduated in 1995
with a degree in Education. I was desperate to see my family again but was helpless due to
the restrictions placed on me by the government. I then turned for help to the church and
the Sudan Council of Churches arranged a secret charter flight for me out of the North to
the South where I could be re-united with my family. It had been 11 years since I had
heard or seen my father, mother and brother and until I saw them again I had no
knowledge whether they had survived the destructive civil war. It was a happy moment
when I saw my family again and saw the smiles on their faces. It was then as a family we
decided to flee the Sudan and seek refugee status.
My father, brother and I left our small town, leaving behind my mother to give the
appearance that we had not gone long nor far. We were to send for my mother as soon
as we had found a place to hide. We went bush near Rumbek, my home birth area, which
was under the control of the Southern Revolutionary Army. We stayed a few months but
it soon became obvious that I would be forced into the revolutionary army and fight in the
civil war if I stayed any longer. We decided that I had to escape but leaving my father and
brother behind hurt me deeply. At this time I was engaged to Apande but she found it
impossible to escape from her village and so I escaped across the border to Kenya where I

stayed in a Refugee camp for many months. It was very difficult living in such conditions,
without my family and not knowing if they were safe.
I lodged an application for refugee status with the Australian Embassy but they rejected it
for not disclosing enough detail about my associates. I felt that if I told the authorities too
much information about my student friends they may be placed in danger. Many of my
friends were still in Northern Sudan and under threat of punishment. In 1996 Apande
escaped to join me. The life in the camp was very difficult. We lived in cardboard ‘houses’
and shared very small rations and health facilities with over 50 000 refugees. There was
never enough food and no water. We had to travel for miles on horseback to find water
and the life expectancy is only 40 years of age. Women had stopped having children.
Then in 1997 we made another application. Throughout all this time I still had had no
word about my father and brother or my mother who we had left behind in our home
village. I worried about them a great deal. Then in January 1998 Apande, who was now
my wife, and I were successful with our second application. We felt happy and sad all at
the same time. In May of that year we arrived in Australia.
We plan to bring our families out to join us but it has been impossible to make any
contact with them.
In 2002 I learnt some terrible news. Just as my mother had escaped to Nairobi in
readiness to join us in Australia she was killed in a car accident. I couldn’t return for the
funeral. I don’t like to think of this too much.
During the five years we’ve been in Australia, the last years in Newcastle, we have been
blessed with two daughters being born, Abijok and Amok. Apande is expecting our third
child very soon. I completed my teaching degree in Science at the University of Newcastle.
I still haven’t heard if my father and brother are safe. Our strong Christian faith and our
strong desire that our family will enjoy the freedoms that is everyone’s right keep us
positive and give us hope for the future. We have been blessed with wonderful support
from many people in the community and that has also helped sustain us. Meanwhile we
hope to aid two other families that have been granted refugee status but cannot afford the
money to make the journey and escape to Newcastle, They are widows, their husbands

were killed in the fighting and they wait in the camp with their children hoping something
marvellous may happen.”

Mabor Kooc
February 2003


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