by SABER AZAM, Phd
When I met Daniel first visiting the dusty refugee camp of Kakuma, I did not realize that he was only fifteen years old. He impressed me by his maturity and determination. He quickly integrated into the community of aid workers and interacted effortlessly with refugees. Daniel also wove extremely valuable relations in the social fabric of the local Turkana population. Honestly, after two days, I did not need to worry about his well-being and security, two of the major concerns in that part of the world.
Most of all, I admired Daniel’s human qualities. In this book, he describes his “first love” as “a sea of suffering humanity, mud shelters and plastic sheeting, hungry stomachs and heavy hearts.” These are profound words by a heartwarming young man and capture the stark realities of life in a refugee camp.
Daniel’s book is a wonderful pictorial essay of human struggle for the survival of values against man-made and natural catastrophes. It is also an extraordinary tale of generosity towards those who flee war, misery, intolerance and hatred. It is his profound cry during a time of innocence, calling for humanity, humility and consciousness. But above all, it is a tribute to both the refugee populations’ courage and resolve in the face of hardships and human suffering—and to the warmth and generosity of the receiving community.
I know the Turkana very well, having lived amongst them for nearly three and a half years. Their nobility will always evoke very pleasant feelings in my heart and their strength will forever shine in my memories. They belong to those people whose simplicity, kindness and spirit merit recounting all over the world. Turkana is a land where the human species may have originated, and its inhabitants are tireless wanderers who exemplify respect for the dignity and values of others.
Oh, if all mankind were like the Turkana, probably the world would have faced less disaster. They should not be “the last Mohicans” of East Africa! And, Daniel’s book aims to ensure this is not so.
The bare, semiarid and least developed Kenyan district of Turkana is an extraordinary land of hospitality for refugees, particularly South Sudanese, who are fleeing their war-ravaged homelands in search of international protection. South Sudanese, these other heroes of African pride and values, are remarkable human beings—trustworthy and trustful of friendship—who do not understand why the terrible plague of violence has afflicted them for so long.
I have also known the wonderful peoples of South Sudan very well, for I have felt that I have myself become a Dinka, a Nuer, an Equatorian, a Cordofane and a refugee from their welcome of me into their lives. Even as refugees, they are always giving more than they receive. I will never forget the hopeful eyes of Sudan’s “Lost Boys” when I first met with them in their “villages” in Kakuma Refugee Camp. The terrible flight, suffering and losses that they endured never diminished their belief in a better future.
Daniel’s book is a remarkable appeal for the safeguard of Turkana and South Sudanese traditions—and, indeed, a reminder of the plight of refugees everywhere in the world, who are the “voiceless” amongst the inhabitants of the Earth.
SABER AZAM, PhD
Deputy Director, Office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Kosovo
Former Deputy Special Envoy for South-East Europe and past Head of Operations in East and West Africa, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
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