Chapter VIII: Freedom


"Why am I here? Why was I born here, in this country. . . I ask myself that a lot. Of course, no one answers me."


Samuel Makuach, 23, is an ambitious young man. He often wonders why he was unfortunate enough to have been born in South Sudan.

When war broke out in late 2013, Samuel was living in Malakal. His aunt took refuge in the nearby UN camp. He fled too, by swimming across the Nile river, and settled on the other side in the village of Wau Shilluk.

There, his life changed: during a cholera outbreak he began working as an interpreter for Doctors Without Borders. "At first I wanted to earn some money and leave. But it is very difficult." Samuel feels tied to his land, and obliged to help his people.

The war began long ago, but he never seems to get used to it. It’s something he finds very difficult to accept. Violence always has a power to shock.

Why did you want to leave South Sudan?

“Because I don’t want to die,” he answers frankly. “It’s better to leave. I don’t want to see people die, I don’t want to see dead bodies, I don’t want to lose friends."

Samuel Makuach reading the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, The Long Road to Freedom. | ANNA SURINYACH


When we interview him, he is reading The Long Road to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. The book means a lot to him. As he gets lost in its pages, his mind looks to the future, a mix of thoughts and contradictions, and he thinks about what he wants to do with his life. He is young but there is a deep maturity in his eyes. "I'm not reading this book to free South Sudan,” he says with a wry smile. “My only plan is to free myself, not South Sudan."

To free yourself, is to give yourself freedom. "I'm a human being, like Mandela," he says.

There is no fantasy in his words, just an honest logic. They are words of reason, and of normality.

"We are people, not animals. We have plans, like any normal person in the world. Here, in the camps, everyone is planning to return to normal life."

When will they return?

Young Samuel Makuach, in his hut in South Sudan. | ANNA Surinyach