Despite the hardship that they and their country suffers, a team of ex-soldiers have formed a wheelchair basketball team in their war-torn but now free nation.
A team of wheelchair basketball players nearly all played a part in the war that devastated the lives of thousands.
As victims of gunshot wounds and needing to undergo life-saving amputations, the dream of setting up a wheelchair basketball team in a free nation has finally become a reality, after South Sudan was granted independence last year on the 9th July 2011.
The team’s captain James, recalls how at the age of 11 he joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to defend the South from a Khartoum army. He had lost both his father and brother in the war, and only stopped defending his country after serious bullet wounds to his leg meant that he needed an amputation to save his life.
He had the operation in Lokichogio, Kenya, and met his future basketball team members at a nearby refugee camp, where they were recovering from similar operations.
At first the team relied upon international organisations to equip them with wheelchairs and matching shirts, and for a while they struggled to get to their training sessions as they had no team bus to transport them.
South Sudan’s government is unlikely to support them any time soon though, as the country is currently suffering inflation at 80% and lost its oil generating revenue after a dispute with Sudan over exporting fees.
The country is also dealing with tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Sudan’s villages that are being bombed by the Khartoum government, and now the rainy season approaches the risk of a cholera outbreak is raising concerns.
Although life is incredibly tough, James stays optimistic about his situation. “I have my mind and I have my spirit, I have a wife and children – I have as much as anybody,” he says, just glad to have his freedom.