During the long years of civil war in the then united Sudan, the family of Kang Mawich–not his real name, who was an infant at the time, moved to the Sudanese capital – Khartoum where they lived at his uncle’s house.
In 2005, when Kang was only 5, he was abducted by a group of unidentified men who took him to the unknown location.
His parents who wondered how their child could disappear without a single trace looked for him to no avail.
The family lived in agony for several years, with no information about their son.
However, as years went by, they came to terms with the fact that they had actually lost their son.
Eleven years later, Kang – who is now 16 years old, desperately in search for his biological parents, appeared after fighting his way out.
He recounted his story to Eye Radio’s correspondent George Rout.
Kang was first taken to Eritrea and later brought to Gambella – in Western Ethiopia when he was abducted from Khartoum.
The Gambella regional state of Ethiopia situated in the western part of the country adjacent to South Sudan is home of Nuer, Anyuak, Mejenger, Opo, Komo and other highlanders.
Each time he was moved to a new location, Kang said he was given a new name.
For years, Gambella region had been marred with ethnic conflicts among the tribes and sometimes with the bordering communities in South Sudan.
During one of these violent ethnic clashes – [details of which Kang doesn’t remember] he and his “family” fled the Gambella region and took refuge in Pibor- which is the current state capital of Buma State.
At the time, he was already sold to a woman who has been posing as his “mother” for the past eleven years.
After a few months in Pibor, his “mother” decided to take him to Kenya. He said they lived in a home located in Thika situation in Kiambu District, Kenya where his “mother” hoped to enroll him in school.
However, for reasons unknown to young Kang, the woman decided to move again to Uganda – this time to live with five other abducted children in Entebbe.
Kang told Eye radio that his other “brothers” whom he says are quite older than him, are of Ethiopian origin – but has no clue who their biological parents are or which village they were abducted from since they were kidnapped as toddlers.
While in Entebbe –Uganda, Kang enrolled in school along with his other “brothers”.
But he said though everything seemed well as were in a decent living, good school and a “loving mother”, he still felt out of place because deep down, his instincts were worrisome and didn’t feel any sense of belonging.
First of all, he was the only black kid at home.
To make matters worse, he still remembered that he was snatched from his actual family and his “mother” constantly lied to him about her being his biological mother, which he says, he knew wasn’t true.
At school, Kang said pupils also teased him on why he was dark-skinned while his supposed “brothers” were brown -something he says, often depressed him.
Each time that happens, Kang says, he felt compelled to trace his roots and return to his real family.
These thoughts kept lurking within him and kept him up several nights until one day, Kang said he attempted to escape from his home and board any bus coming to Juba, where he thought he could start a new life though without a family of his own.
However, unfortunately for Kang, he was caught by the Ugandan Police who informed his “mother” about his attempted escape and was handed over to her.
While at school, not every pupil was a bully. Kang met a South Sudanese girl who was his classmate.
Knowing that he himself was a South Sudanese, he got closer to the girl and soon they became friends. His other “brothers” also became good friends with the girl too.
Out of curiosity, the girl also once asked him why he looked different from the rest of his brothers. Kang bluntly told the girl-“they are not my biological brothers”.
The girl wondered how, but then Kang immediately confided in her that he is actually a South Sudanese and his “brothers were Ethiopians”. He also narrated to the girl, how he was abducted at a tender age and later sold to his current “mother”.
Kang said the girl was shocked by his story and felt sorry for him.
However, she also thinks, with everything that happened in South Sudan, Kang was safer in Uganda with his new family, since his new mother didn’t mistreat him.
But as Kang got a bit older, he sometimes asked the woman about his biological parents, with an intention to find answers to several questions lingering in his mind. But he says each time he asked her, the woman looked nervous at his questions.
At one point, Kang said the woman did acknowledge that he was not her biological son but lied to him that his actual parents died and that he was better off with her.
During the civil war in 2013 and 2016 in the country, Kang said he followed closely with the news channels in Uganda as they reported about the violence in South Sudan.
With the devastating reports and images he watched each day, he became more and more convinced that his parents couldn’t have survived such violence.
Kang also thought he was better off in Uganda with his new “family”.
As the years went by, Kang got more comfortable with his new life and focused on his studies. He also got along with his “brothers” and stopped asking questions.
In December 2018, Kang sat for the Primary Leaving Examinations [PLE] in Uganda, and hoped he passes to join a secondary school and continue with his studies in Uganda.
However one day something happened that made him change his mind about staying.
Kang told Eye Radio that as he patiently waited for his PLE results, one day his “mother” told him that, she was making arrangements for him to go to Afghanistan and continue with his studies there.
Kang said that revelation got him contemplating. He then asked his “mother” why she wanted to send him all the way to Afghanistan when he could go to a secondary school within Entebbe in Uganda, where he has lived for so many years.
The woman didn’t give him clear answers, she only told Kang, “there were better schools and opportunities” in Afghanistan.
Kang began to wonder why Afghanistan of all countries when it is not even a safe country itself.
He also feared that this woman who practically bought him from his abductors could easily resell him to a potential buyer in Afghanistan since she had many “white” friends visiting her at home.
He quickly thought of sharing these thoughts with his new friend at the school –the South Sudanese girl who was his classmate.
Kang said when he shared his fears with the girl – she too thought it was weird that his “mother” would think of sending him to study in Afghanistan when he could go to a secondary school in Uganda just like his older “brothers”.
So Kang said he begged the girl for help – but the girl asked him “how” she could be of any help.
“By telling your mother about me, my story and my fears” Kang told the girl.
Kang said since the girl’s mother is also a South Sudanese, he thought she could understand him and possibly help him get away from his “home”.
After a few days, the girl returned to Kang with welcoming news. Kang said when the girl told him that her mother understood the situation he is in and that she was willing to help, he felt a big relief.
Kang said the girl arranged for him and her mother to meet since she still wanted to ask him some questions about his story.
He didn’t object, soon they met and after hearing his whole ordeal, the girl’s mother was enthusiastic to help him return to South Sudan to search for real his family.
Days later, the woman reported the matter to the Ugandan Police, and after several days of questioning and verification of the story, the authorities handed Kang to her, on condition that she brings him to the South Sudanese authorities at the border town of Nimule.
Two weeks ago, Kang and the “good Samaritan woman” arrived at Nimule and while there, she explained everything to the police at Nimule border.
After several hours of questioning by the Nimule police, Kang said some people from his Nuer Community were brought in to cross-examine him to see if they could find information that could lead to locating any existing family members.
Indeed lucky he was because as he speaking to several men, there was one man who actually knew his uncle, John B Kang – who still lived in Leer – in the Southern Leech State.
This was the best news Kang received in more than 10 years, after being told all this while that he had no family member alive.
A phone call was made to Kang’s uncle in Leer to verify his story and fortunately, his uncle confirmed that indeed his brother lost his second born-son way back in 2005 in Khartoum and since then no one actually knew whether young Kang was dead or alive.
Kang’s uncle was so ecstatic to hear that his long lost nephew was alive and soon returning home.
He also told Kang that his parents were alive and would love very much to meet him soon.
Kang’s uncle also instructed the police in Nimule to help Kang come to Juba where he could meet a family member who lives in at the UN Protection of Civilian Site in Jebel.
At the time of this interview, Kang was still at the PoC with his relatives waiting for arrangements to be made for him to fly over to leer to meet his parents and siblings.
For Kang, this is what he had been waiting for, for over 10 years. But thousands of children snatched away from the hands of their loving families do not get this opportunity.
In South Sudan, child abduction is still common especially in greater Jonglei, Boma State and parts of Eastern Equatoria. Though a few of these children are found and reunited with their families, most of them disappear for good.
Kang’s message to child kidnappers is that “please do not take children away from their parents. However poor they are, every child deserves to grow up with his/her parents, with love and understanding and no one can ever replace that”.
When asked about how he felt about the woman who bought him from his captors and posed as his mother for the past 11 years, Kang told Eye Radio.
“I really don’t feel any hatred for her because she didn’t mistreat me. Though she constantly lied to me about my parents being dead, I thank her for taking me to school. Some stolen children are just left in cattle camps to graze cattle for their entire lives, sometimes re-sold many times, and sometimes they are even killed, but she chose to educate me, I thank her for that.”
“I was only scared of her next plan when she said he was sending me to Afghanistan, I really got scared, because I don’t know if I will be safe, that’s why I left” Kang concluded.
Paul Kujiah Chuol is a relative of Kang, he is offering shelter for him at the Protection of the civilian site in Jebel, as he waits to fly to leer to meet his parents.
Speaking to Eye Radio about the return of Kang, Chuol says there are no words to describe, but rather shock and happiness he felt upon receiving the 16-year boy at his home.
“Up to now l am speechless, I still can’t believe it. I can’t express the happiness of how I feel like a family. His parents are also impatient to meet him, they are currently doing whatever they can to arrange for him to go back home” says Chuol.
Writer: Rosemary Wilfred Peter.…..as narrated to Eye Radio’s stringer George Rout by the victim.
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