Title: They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky
Authors: Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng & Benjamin Ajak With Judy A. Bernstein
Year of publication: 2005
ISBN: 13: 9781586483883
Reviewer: Gladwell Pamba
This book took me 5 days of weeping to finish it. What a heart-breaking autobiography of three south Sudanese refugees! What a tearful piece! Yes, it is about war that broke out in 1987 and saw boys trek for years across the hot desert in Sudan. It is raw and chilling, until I wondered why I read it. It is those books you finish and thank God that your country is peaceful, somehow. It is chilling because of the authors’ accounts as children. One was in fact 5 years old when the war broke out. They got separated and are faced with near-death experiences from hostile tribes, to cruel soldiers, the wide swelling river Nile, scorching hot desert and wild animals. They say as they walked for months, people started dropping death during the great trek. One would collapse while walking and not wake up. They passed through towns, seeing patches of ash and black mass, which were human remains. They drank their urine until there was no more urine left. They walked until the soles of their feet wore out. The recounts are simply blood-curdling.
I desperately wished they could run to Kenya. I was sure if they did, they would find peace. They eventually trudge and arrive in Kenya, skinny, black, withered and dying. But it killed me to find out that they were mistreated in the refugee camps. One of the authors recounts,
“After 6 years I found that I hated Kakuma more than anywhere else because of how people thought about us. The word “refugee” was very strong on the Kenyans’ tongues. It meant “useless” to them. When things were difficult and we complained, they said, “Don’t forget that you are a refugee. This is Kenya. Why did you leave your country?” This made me and the other refugees want to leave.
I had thought people always felt sorry for miserable homeless people, but the Kenyan officers felt proud when they saw us being homeless in their country…. They were depending on us, using refugee items and food for themselves.
When we went to the hospital, there was always inadequate medicine. Very powerful medicines were being donated from all over the world but when they came to the camp they disappeared from the hospital. When we were sick and went to the hospital, we were told that the medicines were not available, but if we went to the market, the medicines were there, and they were very expensive and we couldn’t afford them” pg 227.
There are so many things they say which I know are so true, like the police beating them for no reason as they queued for their rations.
When I meet Benson Deng, or Alphonsion Deng or Benjamin Ajak, I won’t have courage to look them in the eye and say I’m Kenyan.
The book will make you push you to the edge because you can’t stomach that it is children who passed through such atrocities. You will hate soldiers who mistreated the children, you will hate the Sudan government for the state of war that made millions of its citizens die, you will hate Ethiopia for being hostile to refugees, heck you will hate Kenya the more.
Now, one thing I took home is that we should not take peace for granted. There is nothing good that comes out of war or war mongering except deaths, bitterness, displacement, name them.