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By Emmanuel Malual Makuach - 29 Dec 2023

Opinion | Fleeing my homeland: A journalist’s journey to Kakuma refugee camp

Embarking on my journey to Kakuma refugee camp as a fledgling journalist has been a tumultuous experience filled with various emotions. Leaving behind everything I held dear in my home country, I sought safety and a new beginning.

Upon reaching Kakuma, one of the world’s largest refugee camps situated in Kenya, I was immediately struck by the maze of makeshift homes and the vibrant resilience of its inhabitants. The camp, acting as a microcosm of diverse cultures, unveiled stories of struggle, resilience, and hope within its boundaries.

One of the most impactful scenes I encountered was during the food distribution days. The queues stretched for miles, and the anticipation among the refugees was palpable. Observing men, women, and children standing patiently under the scorching sun, their eyes reflecting a mix of hunger and gratitude, left an indelible impression. The meagre supplies provided a lifeline, albeit temporary, in this vast sea of uncertainty.

The nights in the camp were not without challenges. As darkness fell, the camp transformed into a realm of heightened caution and vigilance. The presence of night police patrols presented a contradictory picture of both safety and restriction. While aimed at maintaining order and preventing crime, these patrols also served as a reminder of the limits of freedom within the camp.

Every day, I encountered powerful stories of survival and resilience among those who called Kakuma their temporary home. Their collective struggles and unwavering spirit served as a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. It is my mission to illuminate their experiences, amplify their voices, and draw attention to the plight of refugees worldwide.

As a journalist committed to the power of storytelling, I embark on a mission to bridge gaps, awaken empathy, and inspire action. Through my words and images, I envision a world where compassion transcends boundaries, offering solace and a sense of belonging to every individual, regardless of their circumstances.

The long wait for a ration card: A day in the reception centre: Entering the crowded reception center, I found myself surrounded by hopeful faces, each carrying a unique story and dreams of a brighter future. Anticipation hung in the air as we awaited our turn to obtain ration cards, essential for survival.

Little did I anticipate that the wait would challenge my patience and resilience. Time stretched endlessly, marked by the chatter, shuffling feet, and cries of restless children, mirroring the collective anticipation within the room.

Officials posed a crucial question during the allocation process – “Are you married?” This seemingly simple inquiry determined ration card distribution based on family size, unveiling the vulnerability and weight of personal circumstances.

Finally, my turn arrived. Facing the officials brought a mix of relief and anxiety. The ration card, handed to me after scrutiny, symbolized survival—a lifeline amid the uncertainty of life in the reception center.

The subsequent allocation based on family sizes highlighted a complex reality. Larger families stretched limited resources, while smaller ones grappled with loneliness. The distribution process underscored the challenge of balancing equity and individual circumstances in a context of scarcity.

In that reception center, a vivid tapestry of humanity unfolded. Each person had a unique journey and reasons for seeking refuge. Amidst the day’s complexities, one thing remained clear—the resilience and hope propelling us forward, even in prolonged waiting.

Reflecting on my day, I am reminded of the strength that binds us. Sharing these stories fosters empathy and understanding. Together, we can work towards a world where access to basic resources and dignified living conditions is not just a hope but a reality for everyone.

A day for distribution in Kakuma. The wait, the bags and the journey: As the early morning darkness enveloped the Kakuma refugee settlement, I awoke with a mix of anticipation and weariness. Today marked food distribution day, a crucial event promising sustenance and hope in the midst of adversity. My friend’s advice to bring three bags echoed in my mind, emphasizing their significance in securing an ample quantity of food. With this guidance, I embarked on a journey that would both challenge and enlighten me.

At 4:45 am, I ventured towards the distribution center, navigating dimly lit roads that seemed treacherous. Following the advice to keep my phone safely tucked away, I remained ready to connect with loved ones after the event. However, the system’s limitations prevented calls during the distribution process—a small sacrifice in the pursuit of sustenance.

Arriving at the center, I joined a throng of eager individuals, armed with my three bags. Expectations were high, envisioning bags filled to the brim with provisions. However, reality set in as each bag represented only a fraction of sustenance. The quantity of food did not match my initial hopes.

The distribution commenced, and at my assigned station, I received 130 kilograms of maize, lentils, and sorghum in total, along with half a litre of cooking oil meant to last two months. Grateful for any assistance, the stark reality of making these provisions stretch emerged, highlighting the challenges faced by refugees and the resilience needed to navigate them.

Leaving the center, my steps felt heavier with the weight of meagre provisions. Yet, I refused to let disappointment consume me. Determination was visible on the faces around me, fostering a sense of community and solidarity. We shared this journey together.

As the sun rose, casting a warm glow over the settlement, I reflected on the day’s challenges. Limited resources and overwhelming demand emphasized the need for humanitarian aid to bridge the gap. Amidst it all, I found solace in our collective strength and perseverance. We were defined not by scarcity, but by resilience in the face of it.

This story stands as a testament to the unyielding spirit of individuals in Kakuma and similar settlements worldwide, finding hope and determination in adversity. It underscores the urgent need for compassionate action and support, envisioning a world where no one goes to bed hungry, and every person’s journey is met with dignity and opportunity. Together, we can strive for such a world.

Mourning Loss: Uniting in grief and seeking justice for Bol’s tragic demise: The community of believers found itself shattered, enveloped in an overwhelming sense of sorrow and disbelief. We gathered as mourning hearts at the graveside of Bol Thon Chuol, a beloved member of our community whose life was cut short by a cruel and senseless act. The pain etched on every face mirrored the depth of the tragedy we were grappling with. Together, we sought solace and strength amidst the shattered fragments of our emotions.

Three days had passed since Bol Thon Chuol was reported missing, leaving us all in a state of anxious distress. Hope gradually diminished as the news of his body being found, lifeless and discarded, reached our ears. The weight of grief consumed us, leaving the air heavy with a collective sadness that was difficult to bear.

As the Nyarweng united community, we stood shoulder to shoulder, embracing one another’s pain, determined to honour Bol’s memory and demand justice. Community leaders took on the mantle of organizing the burial and funeral in Kakuma Refugee camp, rallying us together in solidarity. In their thoughtful guidance, they sought to provide comfort for Bol’s mourning family and offer support to those grappling with the injustice inflicted upon him. The sombre atmosphere was intertwined with shared determination, as we vowed to stand against such brutality and protect the sanctity of life within our community.

Amidst tearful eulogies and heartfelt words, the stories of Bol’s life unfolded before us, painting a vivid picture of a kind and gentle soul. Memories of his infectious laughter, his unwavering kindness, and his capacity for empathy filled the spaces that grief had carved within us. Bol’s departure left a void impossible to fill, a void that would forever serve as a reminder of the preciousness of each life and the urgency to safeguard them.

As Bol’s body was tenderly lowered into the ground, a hush fell over the crowd, a profound silence that echoed the weight of our collective loss. Yet, in that poignant moment, seeds of resilience began to sprout within our hearts. We recognized that our mourning would fuel our determination for justice. We would not allow Bol’s memory to fade into the backdrop of forgotten tragedies. It was a pledge to stand together and seek answers, ensuring that Bol’s tragic demise would not be in vain.

Our community, forever changed by this heartbreaking event, emerged from the funeral with a shared resolve. We would rise above sorrow, united in our pursuit of justice and healing. Awareness campaigns were initiated, shedding light on the pressing need to protect the vulnerable and advocate for a justice system that upholds the values we hold dear. Bol’s legacy would serve as a beacon, propelling us forward as we worked tirelessly to prevent such tragedies from befalling others.

The story of Bol’s untimely passing remains etched in our hearts, an indelible reminder of the fragility of life and the imperative to nurture a society where compassion and justice prevail. We carry the weight of his loss as we march forward, demanding change and refusing to surrender to despair. Bol’s spirit lives on within us, urging us to build a future where every individual can experience safety, dignity, and the right to exist without fear.

In Hong Kong, a dreadful incident known as the Sunday Teargas unfolded, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of its witnesses. It was a day that began like any other, the city bustling with its vibrant energy. Little did anyone know that this would be etched into their memories as one of the most tragic events they would ever witness.

The streets of Hong Kong murmured with whispers of despair as refugees, burdened by the weight of their uncertain futures, roamed the concrete jungle seeking solace. Stripped of their homeland and opportunities, their dreams faded like distant echoes. Desperation grew, and with it, the tensions that simmered beneath the surface.

As fate would have it, a routine encounter between the refugees and the local police took an unexpected turn. The police, tasked with maintaining law and order, sought to apprehend one of the refugees. It was a seemingly routine occurrence, a brief moment in the grand tapestry of events. However, on this day, destiny insisted on weaving a different story.

The air grew heavy as emotions sparked, colliding like volatile particles. Frustration blended with anxiety, painting a chaotic tableau across Hong Kong’s streets. The echoes of pleas for understanding merged with the wailing sirens, creating a dissonant symphony of discord.

The clash between the refugees and the police erupted like an irrational storm. The once-civilized streets turned into a battleground, resonating with the raw energy of discontent. Tear gas filled the air, adding a thick haze to the already tumultuous scene. Voices of anguish filled the void, drowned out by the chaos that ensued.

As the sun descended, casting long shadows over a city in turmoil, the once-vibrant streets of Hong Kong fell silent. The aftermath of the Sunday Teargas settled like a heavy blanket, suffocating hope and reinforcing the stark reality faced by refugees and the marginalized.

The terrible events of that fateful day would forever remain etched in the collective memory of Hong Kong. It served as a stark reminder of the existing disparities, the need for compassion, and the pursuit of a better world. It prompted introspection, triggering societal soul-searching that sought to heal wounds and create a more inclusive future.

Though the scars may linger, there is hope that the lessons from the “Sunday Teargas” will sow the seeds for change and resilience. For in the darkest moments, the human spirit often finds the strength to rise, seeking solace in the belief that a brighter tomorrow lies ahead.

In Kakuma Refugee Camp, the streets murmured with whispers of despair as refugees, burdened by the weight of their uncertain futures, roamed the concrete jungle seeking solace. Stripped of their homeland and opportunities, their dreams faded like distant echoes. Desperation grew, and with it, the tensions that simmered beneath the surface.

As fate would have it, a routine encounter between the refugees and the local police took an unexpected turn. The police, tasked with maintaining law and order, sought to apprehend one of the refugees. It was a seemingly routine occurrence, a brief moment in the grand tapestry of events. However, on this day, destiny insisted on weaving a different story.

Emmanuel Malual Makuach, the author, is a South Sudanese journalist and researcher who has focused on the impact of social media triggers in the conflicts of 2013 and 2016 in South Sudan. He can be contacted at

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.