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Updated: December 28, 2013 15:50 IST

Bank manager recounts ordeal in strife-torn South Sudan

Sumit Bhattacharjee
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A. Nageswara Rao
A. Nageswara Rao

‘We lived in fear of being attacked in the crossfire between the warring sides’

“There is nothing like being back at home,” said an emotional Annadevara Nageswara Rao on his return from the strife-torn South Sudan on Friday.

Relieved to be united once again with his family at Jagayyapeta, he told The Hindu that silent prayers kept him alive, as death looked certain for about a week. “We lived with the fear of being attacked or getting caught in the crossfire between the warring sides,” he said.

Mr. Nageswara Rao (40), who was working as Senior Manager at International Commercial Bank at Juba in South Sudan, is very upset the way the Indian Embassy and the government reacted to the whole issue, despite the presence of a sizeable Indian community and huge investments made by the Indian government in various sectors such as steel and oil and gas.

“It started as a political problem between their President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Vice-President Riek Machar sometime in July and turned into a full-scale civil war when the plenary and peace talks failed on December 15. Forces from both sides took to the streets and went on a killing spree and we, about 3,000 Indians (500 from AP), were caught in the crossfire,” he said.

Meagre provisions

Mr. Nageswara Rao and a few other Indians had to stay three days in their apartment complexes as there was heavy firing and shelling. “We were not prepared and neither were told of the situation in advance by our embassy,” he added.

They survived on meagre provisions that the mess had and somehow managed to get out of the complex on December 21. “Since we did not get any help from the embassy we decided to move to the Ugandan border and board a flight to India from Kampala,” he said.

“Initially we were caught in a dilemma as to travel with which tribe to Kampala, as they were massacring each other. I boarded a bus along with the Dinkas and kept praying that the bus would not be intercepted by the rebel forces. I was lucky to reach Kampala, but it took almost 24 hours to cover 800 k.m.,” he said.

In two minds

Mr. Nageswara Rao who earlier worked for the DHFL, joined the Sudanese Bank in November 2011. The banker has escaped the civil war scenario as the management has given a 10-day Christmas holiday. “We are in two minds on going back as our government support was very poor,” he said.

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