Amal, a Young Dinka Tribesman of Sudan

While teaching at Pima College, I had the honor of working with Amal, a young Dinka tribesman from Sudan. As an assignment, I asked my students to document their unique cultural geography. However difficult it was for Amal to discuss what he and his people experience, he put it in words. Amal has sadly passed away since the assignment. However, I would like to share his story.

My name is Amal. I was born in Sudan, Africa around 1984 in a small rural area, Arumyiel, near Yirol District. I was reared on a farm and cattle camp by my mom, most of the time. From there on, our country got into civil war uprisings.

At that time, everything in the country was very disastrous. Schools in other regions were shut down. The war was extremely dangerous. School buildings were completely destroyed, and many people, especially young children and women were maimed and many others were left homeless with no food or running water. Thousands starved to death. Many simply became wild animals’ food. Those who were strong and healthy began a long journey to other nearby towns to be away from any enemy.

I decided to leave Sudan. I moved with some members of my family to Ethiopia to go to school there. We settled in refugee camps and I attended school there for some time.

Unbelievably, other terrible things happened in Ethiopia. Eritrea decided to go to war because they were demanding a self-governing state, so again we were forced to move. We traveled to the Sudan border and from there to Kenya, where I spent many years in a refugee camp. From there, I was eventually resettled in the United States.

In the near future, I will pound my heart and congratulate myself for my persistence in pursuit of my dreams in life. What I have to say to myself is to keep my spirit up and to have self-determination. I am proud for my hard work and ethics that I put into high school to guarantee that I achieved and accomplished my high school diploma, and I did. Now, my new dream is to earn very good transferable credits to any university in the continental United States.

About Ernest Amal Matueny from his obituary:

Ernest was born to a farming family in Yiiol District of Bahr al Ghazal, Sudan (now South Sudan) on September 6, 1984. At the age of six, when war separated him from his home and family, he walked more than 400 miles from Sudan to Ethiopia, along with about 26,000 other children. Ernest resided in a refugee camp in Ethiopia until the fall of the government in 1992, which forced the children to walk back to Sudan and then on to Kenya. Only 17,000 children survived the 1,000-mile journey. He lived in the Kakuma Camp in Kenya under the care of the United Nations, earning his High School diploma from the Kakuma Secondary School.

Amal was relocated to the United States in December, 2000, where he was taken into foster care in Arizona. After earning an Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering from Pima Community College, Ernest moved to Amarillo to work in the meat packing industry. After a brief time of employment in Dodge City, Kansas, he relocated to Guymon, Oklahoma in 2014 to work at Seaboard Farms. 

Dr. Amy Eisenberg is an Associate Scholar at the Center for World Indigenous Studies.