Q: Tell me about yourself and what brought you to DRO.
I’m here as part of a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. It brings in community leaders from around the world – 92 individuals just this year – to work in organizations around the country. I came here to experience how things are done in the U.S. with the hope that I will be able to adapt what I learn and use it back home.
Q: What’s life like for people with disabilities in South Sudan?
People with disabilities back home are stigmatized and not well represented. Not everybody knows his or her rights. There’s a high rate of illiteracy in South Sudan.
Q: What does your organization in South Sudan work on?
My organization, The Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy (TAHURID), advocates for human rights and democracy. We go out and build awareness by partnering with organizations that work directly with people with disability. We educate other organizations on how to advocate for their rights, and offer legal counsel for victims of abuse. People with disabilities are very vulnerable to abuse, and cannot afford to hire lawyers.
Q: Does your organization focus on issues across all types of disabilities?
Our focus is on people with physical disabilities. As a result of the conflict, a lot of people lost their limbs. They’re the majority of people with disabilities in South Sudan.
Q: So you’re an attorney?
I’ve been an attorney for two years. I went to University of Juba College of Law. I was involved in research, human rights and access to justice.
Q: How long did the civil war last?
The civil war started in 1957. A peace agreement signed in 1972 didn’t last. A civil war broke out again in 1983, it lasted for another 20 years. It led to another peace agreement in 2005. In 2011, there was referendum that gave birth to South Sudan. I was a boy experiencing all of this war within Juba and another town in South Sudan.
Q: Do you yourself experience disability?
I’m not disabled, but I’m passionate about upholding the rights of people with disabilities. They’re part and parcel of our community. Being disabled does not mean that you’re not a human being. They have the same rights as everybody else does in society.
Q: What do you hope for the future of disability rights in South Sudan?
I hope that people with disabilities in South Sudan will be respected as anybody else. That they will have access to all services that are required by all human beings, like healthcare and education. And it’s my hope that we’ll make more parts of our community accessible for people with disabilities.