Photo credit: IOM/Muse Mohammed
Mohammed is among the few non-South Sudanese residents at the United Nations protection of civilians site in Bentiu, South Sudan, where more than 120,000 internally displaced persons are seeking safety from a brutal civil war.
Originally from Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State, Mohammed traveled to South Sudan in pursuit of economic opportunity in 2008. He made his living as a store owner in Bentiu town, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity State. “A number of us from Sudan came here seven years ago to set up shops. I had a general store selling regular household items and business was going well in the beginning.” This all changed when the civil war erupted in December 2013.
When fighting broke out in Bentiu in early 2014, “I didn’t leave the town like the other Sudanese when the fighting had started, but eventually the market place was being attacked and my shop got destroyed. After that, I had nothing left.”
Forced to flee, Mohammed ran to the UN Mission in South Sudan peacekeeping base in Bentiu, along with thousands of South Sudanese seeking protection.
“After arriving there, I found out that most of the Sudanese businessmen who fled here had already managed to go back home.” Left behind, Mohammed now lives in a shared shelter with other Sudanese nationals who were not able to find the means to go back.
“I’m not married and I don’t have a family here; it is not that I don’t want to, but I don’t have enough cattle to pay the dowry for a wedding. Even getting married is an expensive affair!” laughs Mohammed.
Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about his future. “One day I would like to go back home. Maybe I will set up a shop or find a new job. I will. As soon as I get the opportunity to do so.”