Sudanese refugees not ready to leave Kenya


Despite the agreement signed to share power between the Khartoum government and southern Sudan rebels four years ago, refugees from southern Sudan living in Kenya have refused to return to their motherland citing several reasons for wanting to stay in Kenya.

According to Achol Deng who is a refugee living in Eldoret, Kenya, he does not see the need of returning to his country as he leads a good life with his family in Kenya. He gets financial support from well wishers who live in Italy and other European countries.

Achol and other refugees receive thousands of money every month sent to them by sympathizers living abroad. Achol receives approximately US$ 2000 monthly from benefactors – money which he will not get if he goes back to southern Sudan. Him and thousands of other refugees are send the money through western union or moneygram electronic money transfer services.They use their refugee identity cards to access and withdraw the money.

Another refugee Kwonyin Chol cites lack of infrastructure in southern Sudan which has discouraged many from returning home. “There are no roads, no hospitals, no schools, no good houses, no piped water and life is generally difficult in Southern Sudan”, he says adding that he cannot imagine leaving Kenya which has all the good things he and his family need in life.


All Chol’s six children attend school and college in Kenya and are send money for their education by sympathizers in Europe and USA. Apart from leading luxurious lives in Kenya, majority of the Sudanese still fear the insecurity in Sudan. Some are still stigmatized after several years of war in Southern Sudan. Others are suspicious of the Khartoum government despite signing a truce to end the insurgence in southern Sudan and agreeing to share power. There are those who saw the death of their leader John Garang De Mabior with suspicion. Garang, who was the vice president in the shared government, died in a plane crash while returning to Sudan from Uganda. His wife has since declined to serve in the Sudan government.

In Kenya thousands of  Sudanese refugees lead very comfortable lives, dressing expensively while some drive flashy cars. Most refugees live in Ngumo estate in Nairobi and Kapsoya estate in Eldoret, about 360 km west of Nairobi. Majority receive monthly stipends from friends, relatives and sympathizers abroad to cover their living expenses. Their children attend good, expensive schools and colleges. Some have even managed to send their children abroad to Europe, Australia, India, Russia and USA for further studies.

Majority of young Sudanese refugees were born in Kenya after their parents fled southern Sudan owing to intense war and attacks by soldiers supporting the Khartoum government. However both young and old have continued to maintain their Sudanese culture and language. They conduct their affairs strictly according to their culture and they rarely mix with other people in social circles. On most occasions they walk alone, conduct their own religious activities, weddings and cultural ceremonies without involving Kenyans who are their hosts.

Many Kenyans envy the lavish lives the refugees lead and the way the Sudanese dress as majority buy new clothes while Kenyans depend on used imported clothes popularly known locally as mitumba.  Many Kenyans also wish they could afford to eat and live like the Sudanese who are able to buy and eat delicious food. Their men drink expensive alcoholic beverages while their Kenyan counterparts have to be contented with cheap alcohol given their weak purchasing power. The Sudanese women are very strict in their morals and do not flirt with Kenyan men instead they wait to be married by their Sudanese men.

By Ken Chelimo

Photos on Flickr by: T U R K A I R O

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