Archive for the ‘Socio-Cultural’ Category

Sven Torfinn for The New York Times

Mary Nyekueh Ley, who lost a husband to war and two children to disease, at her hut in Omdurman, on the north side of the border that divides the two Sudans.


Published: February 19, 2012

The New York Times

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese straddle two worlds.

“My life’s a curse,” she said

Her first husband was wounded in battle and died in her arms. Her second husband beat her.

Two of her children perished from one of the most curable diseases — diarrhea.

And now she is a southerner in a northern land, a conspicuous dark-skinned outsider, with traditional swirling scars all over her face, trying to raise two sons and two daughters. Worse still, the only marketable skill she has is cooking up homebrewed alcohol, a serious crime in Islamist Sudan that has landed her in jail more than 10 times and earned her dozens of lashes.

“See,” she said, pointing to the ribbons of shiny white scars up and down her shins. “The police.”

Mrs. Ley’s situation is extreme, no doubt. But it is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese who have spent most of their lives in the north now find themselves straddling two worlds, their lives upended by a tumultuous border that recently split the country in half.

In July, after decades of an underdog guerrilla struggle, South Sudan broke off from Sudan and formed its own nation. Most Southern Sudanese were ecstatic. The partying in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, did not stop for days.

But for southerners living north of the border, like Mrs. Ley, whose stooped back and cracked, calloused hands tell their own story of suffering and toil, the south’s joyous independence compounded their misery.

Because of the enmity between Sudan and South Sudan — the two have been massing troops on the border, bracing for another major conflict that could ripple across this entire region — there will not be any dual citizenship for southerners living in the north, and it is not clear what the status will be for northerners living in the south.

The Sudanese government says it is going to strip all southerners of their citizenship starting in April. If they want to remain in Sudan, they must apply for a visa, work permit, residency papers and the like, all of which will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get for impoverished, illiterate people like Mrs. Ley who often have no documents showing when or where they were born. She thinks she is around 45 years old.

Even if someone was born in the north, like Mrs. Ley’s 9-year-old son, Georgie, the restrictions are the same. If the person belongs to an ethnic group that is from the south — including Mrs. Ley’s, the Nuer — then that person is considered a southerner.

Facing all this, more than 350,000 southerners have recently relocated, by bus and by barge, from the north to the south, part of a huge migration facilitated by the United Nations and the South Sudanese government. Many others are in line to go.

“I’m just waiting for my pension papers,” said Palegido Malong, an elderly southern man who worked as a guard at a government hospital in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. “I’ll die where I’m supposed to die.”

And as Mrs. Ley soon discovered, a lot of people are dying in the south right now.

It was around December 2010 — Mrs. Ley says with a laugh that she is not strong on dates — that she and her children boarded a bus back to her ancestral home, a place called Mankien, just south of the north-south border. She said she was excited to participate in the south’s referendum for independence, held in January 2011, and was all set to move back with her people.

But one morning, a rogue militia stormed into Mankien, part of a wave of communal violence and insurrections that recently have been sweeping the south. Southern Sudanese soldiers rushed to confront them. The fighting raged for two days, and when Mrs. Ley emerged from her hut, she said, she had to step over dozens of bodies in the grass — men, boys, girls.

“We were all about to be killed,” she said.

She was also disturbed by the lack of development in the south — and it is not as if she were ensconced in modernity here in Omdurman, which is just across the Nile from Khartoum. She lives in a mud-walled house with paper pictures of Jesus taped above the bed. But in Mankien, there are no paved roads or electricity, few wells and few schools. South Sudan is one of the poorest countries on earth, where 83 percent of the population lives in thatched-roofed huts and a 15-year-old girl has a better chance of dying in childbirth than of finishing school.

A few months after arriving in Mankien, Mrs. Ley and her children decided to take a bus back to Omdurman, choosing the lesser of two evils.

They did not receive a warm welcome. Her 14-year-old daughter, Nyapay, said her toes were crunched in the market one day by an Arab man who intentionally stepped on them. Mrs. Ley said people kept giving her nasty looks and saying things like, “Why are you still here if you have separated?” She had always felt like a second-class citizen in the north. Now, it was official.

Mrs. Ley struggles to feed her children anything beyond wal wal, a tasteless dish of sorghum and water. She does not have any relatives nearby who can help. Her first husband, a tall, skinny man named Walkat, was a guerrilla fighter, and when he was killed, she was handed over to Walkat’s brother, who regularly beat her children and punched her in the face.

She fled to Khartoum about 20 years ago and has been brewing and selling illegal alcohol ever since.

“It’s all I know how to do,” Mrs. Ley said, as she stared listlessly at the tools of her trade — a big blue plastic jug and a set of dented plastic soda bottles.

She once spent six months in prison and cannot count all the times the police have whipped her with leather straps, as dictated by Sudanese Islamic law.

Mrs. Ley adores her children, and on a recent afternoon, she poured Georgie a cool glass of water and beamed at him as he tipped it back. But her eyes dropped straight to the dirt floor when the subject of school fees came up.

“I’m out,” she said.


Lightning also struck a match in South Africa

All 11 members of a football team were killed by a bolt of lightning which left the other team unhurt, a Congolese newspaper has reported.

Thirty other people received burns at the match in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kinshasa daily newspaper L’Avenir said local opinion – known to believe in charms and spells – was divided over whether someone had cursed the team.

The two sides were drawing 1-1 in the match in eastern Kasai Province when the lightning struck the visiting team.

“The athletes from [the home team] Basanga curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed,” the paper said.

There was no official confirmation of the report – a rebel war affects much of the east of the country.

The first strike

In a similar incident at the weekend, a premier league soccer match in Johannesburg was brought to an abrupt end when lightning struck the ground.

Half the players from both teams – the Jomo Cosmos and the Moroka Swallows – dropped to the turf.

Several writhed on the grass holding their ears and their eyes. Spectators and coaching staff ran onto the pitch to help. Fortunately no-one was killed.

Lightning kills an entire football team

FOOTBALL FANS in the central African state of Congo were hurling accusations of witchcraft at each other yesterday after a freak blast of lightning struck dead an entire team on the playing field while their opponents were left completely untouched.

The bizarre blow by the weather to all 11 members of the football team was reported in the daily newspaper L’Avenir in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo.

“Lightning killed at a stroke 11 young people aged between 20 and 35 years during a football match,” the newspaper reported . It went on to say that 30 other people had received burns at the weekend match, held in the eastern province of Kasai. “The athletes from Basanga [the home team] curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed.”

The suspicion that the black arts might be involved arose firstly because the opposing team emerged unharmed and then again because the score at the time was a delicately balanced one all.

“The exact nature of the lightning has divided the population in this region which is known for its use of fetishes in football,” the newspaper commented.

Much of the detail about the match remains obscure as the Congo – officially known as the Democratic Republic of Congo – remains stricken by civil war between the government of Laurent Kabila and rebel forces, backed by neighbouring Rwanda, in the east of the country.

Witchcraft is often blamed for adverse natural phenomena throughout western and central Africa. It is relatively frequent for football teams to hire witchdoctors to place hexes on their opponents.

In a similar, though less deadly incident in South Africa over the weekend, six players from a local team were hurt when lightning struck the playing field during a thunderstorm.

Did lightning kill an entire team?

“What is the largest number of game-ending injuries to have occurred to a single team during a match?” enquires Bob Sedlak.

The tragic case of Bena Tshadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo apparently holds this unfortunate record, Bob, after a truly freak blast of lightning wiped them out mid-game. Back in October 1998, Bena Tshadi were drawing 1-1 with visitors Basanga in the eastern province of Kasai when a true bolt from the blue struck. “Lightning killed at a stroke 11 young people aged between 20 and 35 years during a football match,’ reported the daily newspaper L’Avenir in Kinshasa. The account added that while 30 other people received burns, “the athletes from Basanga curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed.”

Immediately, accusations of witchcraft arose; many teams across central and western Africa are known to employ the services of witchdoctors to put curses on their opponents. “The exact nature of the lightning has divided the population in this region which is known for its use of fetishes in football,” added the newspaper. However, there has never been any official confirmation of L’Avenir’s report as much of the area was stricken by civil war.

This isn’t the sole instance of lightning striking a football match, however. Just days before the Bena Tshadi incident, a South African Premier League game was abandoned after seven players and the referee were sent sprawling to the turf. As a Guardian report from the time explained: “Two players from Moroko Swallows were kept in hospital but the coach of opposition Jomo Cosmos hinted that some Swallows players had faked injury. ‘Our observation was that only two players were seriously injured but more fell down,’ he said. The Swallows were 2-0 down with 12 minutes to go.”

Email all your questions and answers to

By Daniel Nasaw, BBC News Magazine, Washington

M.I.A. performs at the Super Bowl halftime showWhether or not M.I.A. was aware, the gesture originally referred to a phallus

An American television network has apologised after pop star M.I.A. extended her middle finger during Sunday night’s Super Bowl halftime show. What does the gesture mean, and when did it become offensive?

A public intellectual, expressing his contempt for a gas bag politician, reaches for a familiar gesture. He extends his middle finger and declares: “This is the great demagogue”.

The episode occurred not on a chat show nor in the salons of New York or London, but in Fourth Century BC Athens, when the philosopher Diogenes told a group of visitors exactly what he thought about the orator Demosthenes, according to a later Greek historian.

The middle finger, extended with the other fingers held beneath the thumb, is thus documented to have expressed insult and belittlement for more than two millennia.

‘A phallic gesture’

Ancient Greek philosophers, Latin poets hoping to sell copies of their works, soldiers, athletes and pop stars, school children, peevish policemen and skittish network executives have all been aware of the gesture’s particular power to insult and enflame.

“It’s one of the most ancient insult gestures known,” says anthropologist Desmond Morris.

“The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. By doing it, you are offering someone a phallic gesture. It is saying, ‘this is a phallus’ that you’re offering to people, which is a very primeval display.”

During Sunday night’s broadcast of the Super Bowl, America’s most-watched television programme of the year, British singer M.I.A. extended the finger during a performance of Madonna’s Give Me All Your Luvin’.

The NFL and NBC television, which broadcast the game and the halftime show, apologised.

A Filipino student gestures at police during an anti-austerity protest near ManilaThe “finger” – seen here at a student protest in the Philippines – is a gesture in use across the world

“The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate,” said Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL.

The gesture is widely known to Americans as flipping the bird, or just giving someone the finger.

The Romans had their own name for it: digitus impudicus – the shameless, indecent or offensive finger.

In the Epigrammata of First Century AD by the Latin poet Martial, a character who has always enjoyed good health extends a finger, “the indecent one”, at three doctors.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that German tribesmen gave the middle finger to advancing Roman soldiers, says Thomas Conley, a professor emeritus of communication and classics at the University of Illinois, who has written about the rhetoric of insults.

Monkeys ‘flip bird’

An Israeli soldier gives a photographer the fingerAn Israeli soldier makes the gesture during 2006’s offensive into Lebanon

Earlier, the Greeks used the middle finger as an explicit reference to the male genitalia.

In 419BC, the playwright Aristophanes puns in his comedy The Clouds about dactylic (finger) rhythm, with a character gesturing first with his middle finger and subsequently with his crotch.

The gesture’s origins may extend even further back: male squirrel monkeys of South America are known to gesture with the erect penis, says Mr Morris.

The middle finger, which Mr Morris says probably arrived in the US with Italian immigrants, is documented in the US as early as 1886, when a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters gave it in a joint team photograph with the rival New York Giants.

British ‘double phallus’

The French have their own phallic salute, says Mr Morris.

A Hungarian nationalist gives the fingers to a gay pride parade in BudapestFrom a Hungarian ultra-nationalist counter protester at a gay pride parade in Budapest…

In performing the “bras d’honneur” (arm of honour), one raises the forearm with the back of the hand facing outward, while slapping or gripping the inside of the elbow with the other hand.

The British gesture – the two-fingered ‘v’ with the palm facing inward – is a “double phallus”, Mr Morris quips.

Although scholars and historians continue to debate its origins, according to legend it was first displayed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415.

There, English soldiers waved their fingers at French soldiers who had threatened to cut off captured archers’ first two fingers to prevent them shooting arrows. The English were thus boasting they were still capable of doing so.

Expression of ‘displeasure’

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp gives the finger to his own playerTottenham manager Harry Redknapp gives the finger to his own player

The middle finger’s offensive meaning seems to have overtaken cultural, linguistic and national boundaries and can now be seen at protests, on football pitches, and at rock concerts across the world.

In December, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was photographed giving an American-style middle finger to Fulham fans after his club’s 1-0 loss there.

The FA cited him for improper conduct and suspended him for one game.

In 2004, a Canadian MP from Calgary was accused of pointing his middle finger at a member from another party who he said had been heckling him in the House of Commons.

“I expressed my displeasure to him, let’s put it this way,” Deepak Obhrai told a Canadian newspaper.

Protest, rage, excitement

Bono gives the fingerOn stage, by middle-aged Irish rocker, Bono of U2

Two years earlier, pop star Britney Spears gave the finger to a group of photographers who she complained had been chasing her. Some of her fans thought the gesture was aimed at them, and Spears later apologised.

While the middle finger may historically have symbolised a phallus, it has lost that distinctive meaning and is no longer even obscene, says Ira Robbins, a law professor at American University in Washington DC, who has studied the gesture’s place in criminal jurisprudence.

A Leeds United fan gestures…and the traditional British variety, at a match between Leeds United and Cardiff City

“It does not appeal to the prurient interests,” he says.

“This gesture is so well engrained in everyday life in this country and others. It means so many other things, like protest or rage or excitement, it’s not just a phallus.”

And he rejects an Associated Press journalist’s characterisation of the gesture as “risque”.

“What is risque about it? Maybe the dancing was risque, but the finger? I just don’t see it.”

 By Hussein Hajji Wario | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Fri, Jan 27, 2012
‘Father’ and ‘Son’ Ousted from the Trinity in New Bible Translations

A controversy is brewing over three reputable Christian organizations, which are based in North America, whose efforts have ousted the words “Father” and “Son” from new Bibles. Wycliffe Bible Translators, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Frontiers are under fire for “producing Bibles that remove “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God” because these terms are offensive to Muslims.”

Concerned Christian missionaries, Bible translators, pastors, and national church leaders have come together with a public petition to stop these organizations. They claim a public petition is their last recourse because meetings with these organizations’ leaders, staff resignations over this issue and criticism and appeals from native national Christians concerned about the translations “have failed to persuade these agencies to retain “Father” and “Son” in the text of all their translations.”

Biblical Missiology, a ministry of Boulder, Colorado-based Horizon International, is sponsoring the petition.

The main issues of this controversy surround new Arabic and Turkish translations. Here are three examples native speakers give:

First, Wycliffe and SIL have produced Stories of the Prophets, an Arabic Bible that uses an Arabic equivalent of “Lord” instead of “Father” and “Messiah” instead of “Son.”

Second, Frontiers and SIL have produced Meaning of the Gospel of Christ , an Arabic translation which removes “Father” in reference to God and replaces it with “Allah,” and removes or redefines “Son.” For example, the verse which Christians use to justify going all over the world to make disciples, thus fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) reads, “Cleanse them by water in thename of Allah, his Messiahand his Holy Spirit” instead of “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Rev. Bassam Madany, an Arab American who runs Middle East Resources, terms these organization’s efforts as “a western imperialistic attempt that’s inspired by cultural anthropology, and not by biblical theology.”

Third, Frontiers and SIL have produced a new Turkish translation of the Gospel of Matthew that uses Turkish equivalents of “guardian” for “Father” and “representative” or “proxy” for “Son.” To Turkish church leader Rev. Fikret Böcek, “This translation is ‘an all-American idea‘ with absolutely no respect for the ‘sacredness’ of Scripture, or even of the growing Turkish church.”

SIL has issued a public response stating “all personnel subscribe to a statement of faith which affirms the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and the inspiration of Scripture.” However, in the same statement, which is similar to Wycliffe‘s, it claims “word-for-word translation of these titles would communicate an incorrect meaning (i.e. that God had physical, sexual relationships with Mary) [sic],” thus justifying substituting “Father” and “Son” in new translations. Calls and emails to Wycliffe and SIL to clarify their positions were not returned. Frontiers responded to calls with articles that critics have already dismissed as skirting omissions of “Father” and “Son” in new Bible translations.

World Map of Social Networks Relative to Facebook

Posted: January 27, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural

By Eurosport | The Rundown 

Ali addresses his public
Muhammad Ali turns 70 today, and to celebrate the life of the Louisville Lip, we have compiled his greatest quotes.
Here are 37 of Ali’s most vicious, funny and profound sayings – one for each knock-out of his professional career.
The Genius of Dr. John Garang: The Essential Writings and Speeches of the Late SPLM/A's Leader, Dr. John Garang De Mabioor (Volume 1)

The Genius of Dr. John Garang: The Essential Writings and Speeches of the Late SPLM/A’s Leader, Dr. John Garang De Mabioor (Volume 1) ON AMAZON.COM

1 – ‘I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick.’
2 – ‘There’s not a man alive who can whup me. I’m too fast. I’m too smart. I’m too pretty. I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.’
3 – ‘I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.’
4 – ‘I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I’m in a world of my own.’
5 – ‘If you dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologise.’
6 – ‘There are two things that are hard to hit and see. That’s a spooky ghost and Muhammad Ali.’
7 – ‘I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.’
8 – ‘Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.’
9 – ‘People don’t realize what they had till it’s gone. Like President Kennedy – nobody like him. Like The Beatles, there will never be anything like them. Like my man, Elvis Presley – I was the Elvis of boxing.’
Ali fights Joe Frazier in the ‘Thrilla in Manila’
10 – ‘Frazier is so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.’
11 – ‘Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.’
12 – ‘It will be a killer, and a chiller, and a thriller, when I get the gorilla in Manila.’
13- ‘I always bring out the best in men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.’
Ali versus Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’
14 – ‘I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing. And the shadow won.’
15 – ‘Floats like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.’
16- ‘Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t!’
17- ‘It’s a divine fight. This Foreman – he represents Christianity, America, the flag. I can’t let him win. He represents pork chops.’
18 -‘That all you got George?’ (Ali during the Rumble in the Jungle)
19- ‘Hey Floyd – I seen you! Someday I’m gonna whup you! Don’t you forget, I am the greatest!’
20 – ‘I’ll beat him so bad, he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.’
Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston: Tale of the tape
21 – ‘Sonny Liston is nothing. The man can’t talk. The man can’t fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he’s gonna fight me, he needs falling lessons.’
22 – ‘I shook up the world! I shook up the world!’
23 – ‘Why, chump, I bet you scare yourself to death just starin’ in the mirror. You ugly bear! You ain’t never fought nobody but tramps and has beens. You call yourself a world champion? You’re too old and slow to be champion!’
24 – ‘Get up sucker and fight. Get up and fight.’ (Ali to Liston during their second fight)
25 – ‘You’re always talking about, Muhammad, you’re not the same man you were 10 years ago. Well, I asked your wife, and she told me you’re not the same man you was two years ago!’
26 – ‘I’m the best. I just haven’t played yet.’
27 – ‘When you can whip any man in the world, you never know peace.’
28 – ‘Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God – and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me.’
29 – ‘What’s my name, fool? What’s my name?’ (Ali to Ernie Terrell who refused to call him Muhammad Ali)
30 – ‘I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.’
31 – ‘Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?’
32 – ‘I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a ‘nigger’.’
33 – ‘A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.’
34 – ‘Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.’
35 – ‘One of these days, they’re liable to make the house I grew up in a national shrine.’
36 – ‘A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing.’
37 – ‘It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.’

Books – Ehrman, Bart: Misquoting Jesus

Posted: January 16, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural

Books – Ehrman, Bart: Misquoting Jesus.

An agnostic view on The Ten(Twelve) Commandments

Posted: January 16, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural

An agnostic view on The Ten(Twelve) Commandments.

By Mark Tutton, CNN
January 12, 2012 — Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Director Joseph Abuk Ngbangu explains the plot of Cymbeline to potential cast members at a workshop in Juba.
Director Joseph Abuk Ngbangu explains the plot of Cymbeline to potential cast members at a workshop in Juba.

  • South Sudan Theatre Company producing Shakespeare play “Cymbeline” in Juba Arabic
  • Juba Arabic is widely spoken in South Sudan
  • They will perform the play at London’s Globe Theatre in May
  • Theater survived Sudan’s civil war, says the company’s director

(CNN) — A theater company from South Sudan is translating Shakespeare into the local dialect for the first time, before performing the play at London’s Globe Theatre.

Six months after the birth of South Sudan as an independent nation, it is a country still trying to define its culture and national identity.

The South Sudan Theatre Company (SSTC) is helping to develop that culture by performing Shakespeare’s tragedy “Cymbeline” in Juba Arabic — a language spoken widely in South Sudan.

“Shakespeare is a genius writer who wrote about humanity, about greed, jealousy, wars, power, love — he really speaks to the whole world,” said Derik Uya Alfred Ngbangu, the SSTC’s director and producer.

We want to do Cymbeline in a way that speaks to the South Sudanese.
Derik Uya Alfred Ngbangu, SSTC director and producer

“We want to do Cymbeline in a way that speaks to the South Sudanese — in terms of the plot, the kind of conflict that exists here — and make it our own thing,” he added.

Juba Arabic is a pidgin form of Arabic that takes its name from the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Although English has been named South Sudan’s official language since the country’s independence, Juba Arabic is still a lingua franca in much of South Sudan, says Ngbangu.

The SSTC’s production is part of the “Globe to Globe” Festival taking place at London’s Shakespeare Globe Theatre from April. The SSTC will be one of 37 theater groups from around the world performing interpretations of Shakespeare plays in their local language.

The SSTC has already begun adapting Cymbeline and translating it. “We’re looking to cut out unnecessary bits so that 10 actors can do it, instead of perhaps 18,” said Ngbangu. “We’re looking to have a simplified, shortened text that can be performed in one and a half hours instead of three.”

Actors will be drawn from two of South Sudan’s established theater groups, the Kwoto Cultural Centre and the Skylark Dramatist Association, and will include graduates of the University of Juba’s College of Arts, Music and Drama.

Ngbangu says they plan to perform Cymbeline in Juba before taking it to London in May. They are are also looking to make changes to the original to make it more relevant to local audiences, such as using local names and costumes.

The original Cymbeline is set against a backdrop of impending war between ancient Britain and ancient Rome, over the king of Britain’s refusal to pay tribute to Rome; the SSTC is considering changing that to an impending conflict between south and north Sudan, fighting over oil.

Sudan’s real civil war between north and south raged for decades, claiming more than two million lives. But Ngbangu says theater survived those dark years of conflict.

Through theater we can send a lot of messages about unity, about respecting people, about coming together …
Derik Uya Alfred Ngbangu, SSTC director and producer

“Theater has existed throughout the time of the civil war and difficulties,” he said. “War never stopped people coming together through arts — whether music or drama or dance,” he added.

And he believes theater can help build South Sudan, celebrating the fledgling nation’s cultural diversity.

“It is a very cheap art form compared to cinema and TV — you can do it anywhere — move it to the villages and contribute to their understanding of their environment, their struggles, you can do it in schools and teach young people how to do the right thing.

“Through theater we can send a lot of messages about unity, about respecting people, about coming together, about tolerance and civilization.

He added: “There is an old saying — ‘give me a theater and I will give you a nation.'”

As casting and rehearsals begin, Ngbangu is excited at the prospect of performing in London.

“I have been to London several times. It is a land of theater, a land that produced a giant like Shakespeare,” he said.

“To be in London with a Shakespearean play, when we’re a country that will be nine months old at the time, it’s a great thing.

A 21-year-old Iranian man has a permanent semi-erection after having “borow be salaamat” (good luck with your journeys) and the letter “M” (his girlfriend’s initial) tattooed on his penis.

The man, whose name is unknown, was diagnosed with nonischemic priapism — a condition resulting from the inability of blood to exit the penis. His case was detailed in the latest issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine .

“In our case, most probably, the handheld needle penetrated the penis too deep, creating an arteriovenous fistula,” wrote the study authors fromKermanshah University of Medical Sciences  in Kermanshah, Iran. A fistula is a connection between two organs or vessels — in this case an artery and a vein — that normally don’t connect.

“For eight days after tattooing, the penis was painful, and thus there were no erections,” the authors wrote. “After that, the patient noticed longer-than-usual sleep-related erections. This progressed, within a week, to a constantly half-rigid penis, day and night.”

Men are advised to seek medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours.

During a normal erection, blood rushes into the penis through the arteries to build up pressure and later leaves through the veins. But in nonischemic priapism, blood continues to enter faster than it can leave, causing persistent pressure and a permanent erection. The problem resolves naturally 62 percent of the time, the researchers reported. And when it doesn’t, men have the option of selective arterial embolism — a procedure that blocks the offending artery.

Instead, the Iranian man chose to have a shunt implanted to drain the excess blood, according to the report.

“Predictably, the procedure was unsuccessful,” the authors wrote. “Because of the painless nature of erections, moderately good preservation of erectile function during intercourses, and disappointment with former surgery, the patient has declined to undergo further therapies, and lives with his condition.”

Despite his permanent erection, the man has no regrets over his penis tattoo, according to the report. Nevertheless, the report authors advise against the practice.

“Based on our unique case, we discourage penile tattooing,” they wrote.

Deng in SudanAdam Andre, director of the The Luol Deng Foundation, stands with Luol Deng in July 2011 on a trail through the Jebel Rock mountain range over Juba, South Sudan. (Luol Deng Foundation HANDOUT / January 6, 2012)

Independence of native land has allowed forward’s family to return and has granted him serenity

By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter3:23 p.m. CST, January 7, 2012
The words appeared on Luol Deng‘s Twitter feed at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 16.Eating outside by the Nile River is so peaceful.

Deng sat there, on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan, dining with his father, brother and best friend. The sun warmed. The wind calmed. Eventually, his friend, Adam Andre, even jumped in the river. Deng teased him about getting eaten by alligators.

But no. On this day, four months into South Sudan’s remarkable independence, with four of Deng’s eight siblings and his parents having returned home for good, only peaceful moments prevailed.

It’s not unlike the contentment Deng has found in his professional life. Once maligned by Bulls fans for being overpaid and physically and mentally brittle, Deng has become coach Tom Thibodeau‘s indispensable part, as reliable and relentless as the mighty Nile’s current.”He’s relaxed because he knows that everything is cool now,” says Andre, who has known Deng since they attended a New Jersey boarding school together 12 years ago. “There’s peace in South Sudan.”

Deng’s father, Aldo, served as Sudan’s minister of transportation as civil war raged. The family left for Egypt when Luol was 5, eventually landing outsideLondon when England granted Aldo political asylum in 1993.

Deng spent six years in England, left for New Jersey’s Blair Academy at 14 and earned a basketball scholarship at Duke. After one sparkling season, the Bulls acquired his draft rights in a trade with the Sunson June 24, 2004.

Facebook should have done more to prevent scammers from taking advantage of people desperate to leave Timeline.
By KEITH WAGSTAFF | @kwagstaff | January 6, 2012 |
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


Don’t like Facebook Timeline? Too bad, because you’re stuck with it.

Hence the arrival of scammers, cynically taking advantage of those nostalgic for the old profile design by creating at least 16 pages promising a way to undo Timeline.

According to Inside Facebook, the pages have collectively accumulated around 71,000 “Likes,” prompting users to “invite friends, watch YouTube videos and download files.” They’re also pretty easy to find; search for “timeline” on Facebook and you’ll find pages titled “Deactivate Your FB Timeline” and “Here You Can Remove Facebook Timeline.”

This is bad news for Facebook for several reasons. One, of course, is that its users are being scammed. The other is that it’s not exactly great PR for Timeline.

Back when I initially reviewed it, I praised the decision to make Timeline opt-in. While browsing through people’s profiles is a lot more fun, it’s a bit of a privacy nightmare, especially if you don’t take the hour or so required to spot clean your virtual past.

What I failed to mention was that, much like the mafia, once you’re in, you’re in. Facebook is determined to make Timeline the de facto Facebook profile. In the future, every user will be transitioned over to the new format whether they like it or not.

Which brings us back to the scams. They are proof that thousands of people have no idea that you can’t switch back to the old profile. I don’t blame them; I tried searching throughout Facebook’s Timeline Help Center (where, presumably, such information would live) and found nothing that would warn someone that you can’t leave Timeline once you join.

Facebook has very little incentive to delay you from joining Timeline. After all, soon everyone will have it, so why give people the option to switch back to a profile that won’t exist?

That makes a lot of sense. So why not just make that clear from the get-go? Did Facebook really have so much faith in its design that it didn’t anticipate that thousands and thousands of people would hate it and want out?

This is the aftermath of that little bit of hubris. Frustrated users, with no information provided to them by Facebook, are taking things into their own hands and ending up at pages created to profit off of their confusion.

Yes, if people knew that opting in to Timeline was a one-way street, fewer of them would have signed up. That’s still no excuse to not give users fair warning before they make that decision.

Facebook has a nasty habit of releasing products people don’t like and assuming that one day they’ll see the light and realize Zuckerberg was right all along. It might have worked with the News Feed redesign (although I still can’t stand the ticker) but after this debacle, who knows; it might be different.

Read more:

Deng Atong was from the Mundari tribe. The Mundaris occupy the northern part of central Equatoria Province in South Sudan. The Mundari country borders Bor district in Upper Nile Province to the north, Yirol (Jieng-Aliab) district in Lakes Province to the northwest, Juba district to the south, Rokon district in Eastern Equatoria Province to the southwest, and Mundri district in Western Equatoria to the west, and Torit district to the east. The Mundari tribe is one of the seven Bari-speaking tribes of central Equatoria. The people are cattle owners and cultivators at the same time. They depend on livestock and the cultivation of consumer and cash crops for their living.

Deng Atong was born in the year 1912. We know his father’s name was Atong but, unfortunately, available records do not tell us his mother’s name. The story of Deng’s birth was a tragic one as he was born with a natural defect in his genital organs: he had one testicle. To the Mundaris, a male child born with this particular defect is evil, and must be given away to the evil spirits of the forest, or be thrown away to be devoured by the wild beasts so he is not seen again in the physical world.

Deng Atong was rejected not only by his parents but by the whole community and thrown into the forest. Luckily for this unfortunate child, a poor woman discovered the child, picked him up and took him home with her. Interestingly, the woman who took care of Atong for six years was a Mundari woman. According to Mundari custom, no Mundari person should take such an evil child, unless he or she is of the evil spirit world. Despite this, she bravely took the poor child home with her. But she also knew that she could not keep him for long, if she was to avoid the danger that would befall her and her whole family, as a result of having an evil child at home. For this reason, she decided to give the boy to the strangers–the missionaries–of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission station in Southern Bor district, at Malek.

In 1918, when this “evil” child was brought to the mission station, he was received by Archdeacon Archibald Shaw, and became widely known as the son of the missionary. The local people called him “Deng Machuor,”–machuor is the color of a bull ox, a confusion of tan, gray, white and black colors. This was the name given to the English missionary, Archdeacon Shaw, probably because Shaw’s skin color could not be defined by Jieng (Dinka) standards. Deng later took his biological father’s name and became known as Deng Atong before his baptism.

He proved to be a very intelligent child from an early age. He was able to relate to “three different cultures, speaking fluent Mundari, Jieng and English” (But God Is Not Defeated, p. 178). Being brought up by missionaries and living in a mission station, he was exposed to Christian teaching and therefore became a Christian at a very early age. Archdeacon Archibald Shaw baptized him in 1921. At his baptism, he chose the name “Daniel” probably because he saw himself as the Daniel of the Old Testament, who was saved by God after being thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6: 10 – 25). Likewise he was protected by God after being thrown into the forest to be devoured by the wild beasts of Mundariland. These memories were to have an effect on Daniel’s later life. For many, the story of Daniel’s survival was a miracle because God had saved this boy, discarded by his family and tribe to fulfill His own purposes. Daniel’s successful evangelization of the Dinka Bor area, when the missionaries had actually failed, illustrated this point.

Daniel started his school life at the Malek mission station where he grew up. From there he went to Juba and after completing his studies at Juba Training Center (JTC),–now Juba Commercial Secondary School,–he taught at Malek and in 1938 became the headmaster of Nugent School, Loka. At Loka Daniel Deng Atong experienced spiritual renewal and became an active evangelist. At this time, the Revival movement was beginning to spill over from East Africa into South Sudan. Daniel was among the first to welcome and support the movement. Daniel Deng pioneered a very successful evangelization campaign in the Bor area as mentioned earlier. This success was largely attributed to the fact that he was familiar with both the language and culture of the people, so that his “message was received by the rural people to a degree hardly known to the Europeans” (But God Is Not Defeated, pp.178 – 179).

Seeing his good work, the missionaries started to encourage Daniel to seek ordination. He and Andrea Apaya were the first two Sudanese to be ordained as deacons in 1941, and Daniel was priested in 1943. He served as the priest-in-charge at Panekar and he opened up and planted a church in Kongor, northern Bor. He was sent to England to study at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, in 1947 where he completed his studies successfully. In 1953 he was made honorary canon of All Saints Cathedral, Khartoum, and in 1954, he was appointed canon missioner in the Diocese of the Sudan.

The period from 1947 to 1955 was a time of political instability, as the Sudanese were struggling for independence from the Anglo-Egyptian–the so-called “Condominium”–rule. Missionary societies were also targets of the national movement for independence. At this time, a movement to “Sudanize” all leadership and other key positions in the public sector was afoot. This also affected the church in one way or another. Consequently, as the expulsion of the missionaries seemed likely in the heat of the political pressure for independence, it was necessary to find a Sudanese bishop to take care of the Diocese of the Sudan. In this regard, “It was clear that Daniel’s background gave him unique qualifications in terms of academic training, pastoral and leadership skills, linguistic ability, and ease in relating across cultures” (See But God Is Not Defeated, p. 179).

In May 1955 Daniel Deng Atong, was consecrated assistant bishop of the Diocese of Sudan, by the Most Rev. Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Namirembe (Kampala), in Uganda along with three other African assistant bishops. To many Sudanese, the consecration of Daniel Deng Atong was the beginning of a new era with authority shifting from the missionaries to the indigenous people and culminating in the independence of the church in Sudan.

After his consecration, Daniel returned to Sudan and immediately went on a tour of the Diocese of the Sudan, carrying out confirmation services wherever he went. This tour culminated in the creation of the Northern Archdeaconry. Daniel also accompanied the diocesan bishop of Sudan, the Rt. Rev. Oliver C. Alison, on international journeys. The first was to Jerusalem, where they attended the first meeting of the Episcopal Synod of the Middle East. The second was to England where both bishops attended the 1958 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican bishops. Daniel had established his home at Bishop Gwynne College, in Mundri, and had initially settled there.

Daniel’s work as a bishop was carried out in an atmosphere of high and contradictory expectations. As the first Sudanese bishop, his missionary parents saw Daniel’s role in the church as primarily pastoral. He was to carry out confirmations and assist or support the diocesan bishop and nothing else. The South Sudanese politicians, ordinary rural people, and Christians expected Daniel to take a leading role in policy-making, political leadership and decision-making inside the church and beyond. Daniel also found himself surrounded by divergent groups,–Britons and Sudanese, conflicting tribal groups, Christians, traditionalists, and Arabs,–all vying for his attention. Daniel became bishop at a time marked with political upheavals and unrest. The mutiny by the Equatoria Corps in Torit, which sparked the longest civil war ever fought in history, erupted in August 1955, three months after Daniel’s consecration. As an indigenous bishop, Daniel struggled to nurture the life of the church amidst mounting political unrest and armed conflict. In such a complex community and situation, it was only proper for the bishop to play the role of peace-maker and mediator between the different groups.

Bishop Daniel Deng Atong also had personal conflicts which weighed on him. His adoptive father died a few months after the consecration so Daniel missed the support that his father could have offered. Another personal problem was that he had been rejected as an evil child, discarded by his biological parents and his own people, and thrown into the wilderness as a carcass fit for the wild beasts. Throughout his life, the bishop suffered tremendously from the psychological effects of this early treatment and from the negative physical consequences of his birth defect. Whereas Daniel was widely respected, especially among South Sudanese, both Christians and non-Christians alike, as the “father” of the Sudanese Church, he could not have his own genetic children due to his defect. According to Mundari custom, since he did not die in the forest but survived, he was to make sacrifices to the evil spirits that possessed him right from his mother’s womb, so that he could have children. But now that he was a Christian, these rituals could not be performed on him. The church leaders and people close to Bishop Daniel believed very strongly that his inability to have children had a tremendous effect upon the bishop.

With all these problems weighing on him, within only three years of his consecration, Bishop Daniel Deng Atong began showing signs of psychological breakdown and instability. He took to heavy alcoholic drinking, which made it very difficult for him to carry out his duties. This state of affairs continued to worsen until, toward the end of 1958, the church authorities were left with no choice except to suspend him from his functions. Thus ended Daniel’s Episcopal ministry.

Rev. Marc Nikkel summarized Daniel’s life thus:

From his birth Daniel’s life was special, uniquely marked by the redemption and call of Christ. He was a person of superlative gifts, whose every stage of life, from childhood and baptism, through his work as a teacher, evangelist, pastor and bishop, seemed to coincide with the emergence and development of the Church in Sudan. Some have dismissed Daniel’s brief Episcopacy as a failure, a tragic lost opportunity. Rather Daniel should be seen as one of the Church’s most brilliant indigenous pioneers, who, much like a figure of Christ, ultimately bore the brokenness and fragmentation of the nation within his own remarkable life (See But God Is Not Defeated, p.180).

After his suspension in 1958, he went to live a very quiet life in retirement in Bor, where he died in 1976.

James Lomole Simeon


Samuel E. Kayanga, and Andrew Wheeler (eds.), But God Is Not Defeated, Celebrating the Centenary of The Episcopal Church of The Sudan, 1899 – 1999 (Nairobi, Kenya: Pauline Publications Africa, 1999).
Information, collected from interviews, and during conversations, with the Most Rev. Benjamin W. Yugusuk, then Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, and some of the bishops, when the author was Chancellor of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Khartoum, Sudan.

Daniel Comboni (1831-1881), Roman Catholic, Sudan

Some people would consider Daniel Comboni a failure when he died in Khartoum in 1881. The missionary priest had been working actively in or for Africa for over thirty years and had produced a continent-wide strategic document, Plan for the Regeneration of Africa, but had little to show for it. Over a hundred of the priests he recruited had died, most of his Sudan missions had failed, were struggling, or would soon be wiped out by the Muslim Mahdi. But a century later, the Combonians and Comboni Sisters were a strong missionary order in Africa and Latin America. Comboni ranks, with Venn, Libermann, and Lavigerie, as one of the handful of nineteenth-century figures claiming an encompassing missionary vision. His was a long-term strategy: “The missionaries will have to understand that they are stones hid under the earth, which will perhaps never come to light, but which will become part of the foundations of a vast, new building.”[1]

Born in a small town in Italy in 1831, Comboni always wanted to be a priest, developed a strong interest in Africa, and participated in an expedition to the south of the Sudan in 1857. Tropical illnesses decimated the small group and, as he lay dying, the father superior said, “If it should happen that only one of you be left, let him not give up or lose confidence …. Swear to me that you will not turn back.” “Africa or death,” Comboni answered. (He was the first mission’s only survivor and returned to Italy to recover his health.)

What was the best way to conduct missionary work in Africa? Comboni wrestled with the question, and in 1864 while in Rome he wrote Plan for the Regeneration of Africa. Facing the issues of climate and disease head on, as well as the problem of African students’ cultural adaptability to Europe, Comboni recommended that all European missionary orders should combine resources (this was in the heyday of the “scramble for Africa” and went against prevailing trends). Together they should build institutes, in favorable climactic zones throughout the continent. Here Europeans could come to teach and Africans to learn, not only as religious, but as lay teachers and craftspersons as well. When institute courses were completed, Africans and Europeans would then head to the interior together, but the Europeans would leave after a few years, to be replaced by other Europeans or not, depending on the need. “The regeneration of Africa by means of Africa itself seems to me the only possible way to Christianize the continent,” Comboni wrote.

As might be expected, the French refused to participate in such a plan, although Rome found it attractive and encouraged the Italian missionary, who then created the Cairo Institute, with schools for girls and boys and a hospital, as the first such launching pad. (It would be his only one). The Verona Sisters and Verona Fathers came a few years later, and by late 1871 Comboni returned to the Sudan to set up operations himself. He was named vicar apostolic of Central Africa in 1877.

The task Comboni faced in Africa in the 1870s was complicated by the slave trade. Slavery was big business in Central Africa, with large, well-armed caravans of recruiters who bribed Egyptian officials to let them move freely from the interior to port cities, where they sold their human cargo. Comboni fought hard against slavery, was given his own small army to combat the traffickers, closed the E1 0beid slave market, and hunted down some of the slave raiders. But he was only one person against an established industry.

With Comboni was the first African priest to work in Central Africa, Fr. Pius Hadrianus, a Benedictine. Soon another African priest, Fr. Antonio Dubale, was running a model village for freed slaves in El Obeid. A trained Nubian catechist, product of the Cairo Institute, was dispatched to work among this important southern Sudan ethnic group. The Nubians had a rich culture, were anti-Islamic, and were a logical target for mission work.

Comboni was a major figure in African religious life, training African missionaries, combating the slave trade, establishing a small number of solidly conceived mission stations in Sudan, and, most importantly, establishing the Verona Fathers and Sisters, which went through various reorganizations to emerge as the Comboni missionary congregations. Comboni was beatified in Rome on March 17, 1996.

Look on those who revere you, 0 God, on those who trust in your merciful one. Heal our sad divisions and our enmities, O Lord, help us to reject the ways of violence. Then shall dawn break over the desert; then shall your children frm North and South in Sudan sing your praises, Holy One whom we know by many names. Amen.

Frederick Quinn



1. A. G. Mondini, Africa or Death: A Biography of Bishop Daniel Com-boni, Founder of the Missionary Societies of the Verona Fathers and the Verona Sisters (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1964).


Daily Nation–There was no mega earthquake, tsunami, war, massacre, or outbreak of rebellion last Christmas and this New Year.

Just as well, because I took time to explore one of my pet subjects; the conflict between how a country sees itself and how others view it.

I don’t know about you, but over the last year, I have noticed many women at East Africa’s airports, and on flights out of our region, who look like the South Sudanese supermodel, Alek Wek.

Most of them are usually with a European or American man aged in the late 40s to mid-50s.

On a flight from Entebbe to Nairobi on Tuesday, there were two such couples hugging all the time.

It seems over the years of Ms Wek’s stardom in Europe and the US where she plies her trade, she has become the model idea of African “exoticness” for some men.

So when the war ended in South Sudan and the country became independent, there has been a rush there by men seeking to fulfill their Alek Wek fantasies, and get themselves a clone of the supermodel.

The interesting thing is that Wek is most definitely not many African men’s idea of a beautiful woman. If nothing else, they would consider her “too thin”.

And if you want peace, never start a debate about whether Wek is beautiful. I just read an interview of her in Time magazine, and there is no doubt she is an intelligent and remarkable woman.

The thing though, is most women in South Sudan do not actually look like Wek.

Her case came to mind because, over the holiday, some good citizens of Kampala told me that Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has some “interesting” views about Ugandans.

To start with, I have hardly met a Kenyan man or woman who, when the subject came to Uganda, didn’t remark about the “polite Ugandan women, who kneel when they greet and call you Ssebo”.

That is true, but only in a very few cultures, especially the Baganda in the southern part of the country.

Which brings us to Kalonzo. Last October when there was that big Africa Cup of Nations clash between Uganda’s Cranes and Kenya’s Harambee Stars, Kalonzo organised bus trips for Kenyan fans.

Before the convoy left, he warned the Kenyans.

“Those Ugandan sisters of ours are known for kneeling and greeting sweetly”, he said. “If we are not careful, by the time we get to the stadium to cheer Harambee Stars, only 600 of the 1,000 of us will show up”.

The rest, presumably, would have been ensnared by kneeling wily Ugandan women.

This story is still being told in Kampala, and it has actually won Kalonzo a few friends because the folks got the light-heartedness in it.

That said, I wish Kenyan men looking for these polite Ugandan women who kneel before their husbands, smother them with gentleness, mop their feet and sweaty foreheads, and bring them breakfast in bed a lot of luck.

Their best chance is in the village, because even among the middle-class Baganda, they won’t find them. When they do, they should share their discoveries with their Ugandan brothers. They, too, are looking.

These images are rarely the ones that tourism and Brand Kenya, Brand Uganda, Brand This, want to promote.

There were two big conferences on South Sudan recently; one in Geneva the other in Washington D.C.

There is a famous “Gifted by Nature” campaign that was run by the Uganda government, and we didn’t see anything of the country’s kneeling women.

Indeed, in Kenya’s case, you can be sure when an image from the country is used by international brands abroad, it will not be its marathoners. It will be “Maasai” warriors (Maasai is used here guardedly) jumping sky-high.

I have seen that on Landrover Discovery’s international ads, and on campaigns for all sorts of mobile and satellite phones in many countries.

However, when Kenya’s Vision 2030 does its campaigns, it touts the “Thika Superhighway”, M-Pesa, and the future technology city, Konza. It is just not politically correct to throw a Maasai warrior into the mix.

It’s hard to beat the power of prejudice, and the appeal of what we might call “Wanjiku’s narrative”. & twitter@cobbo3

South Sudan Celebrates Christmas As A Free Nation

Posted: December 26, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural

The Emmanuel Jieng Parish catholic church members congregating during Christmas Day in Juba


The Emmanuel Jieng Parish catholic church members congregating during Christmas Day in JubaThe Emmanuel Jieng Parish Protestant church which has a congregation of over 5000 people joined the world in celebrating Christmas Day in Juba yesterday. This is the First time for South Sudanese to celebrate Christmas as an independent country.

Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth who was the preacher of the day expressed his gratitude to the Almighty God and reminded the congregation that we are a free people now.

He read some verses from the Holy Bible that were talking about faith and freedom and urged the congregation to read from the books of David, Isaiah, Hebrew and John to understand the day well.

He said that the day was very important to many South Sudanese wherever they are because our God has granted them peace to worship him in their own country.

“South Sudan had been at war for a long period of time and our people have never had a chance to worship their God fully,” he said.

Anyieth urged South Sudanese to deceit from violence and to embrace peace and unity among themselves. “Peace is what we want,” he stressed.

Meanwhile the Pastor in charge of Emmanuel Jieng Mr. Philip Aduong Thiong asked the public to forgive each other and use the Christmas time for reconciliation.

The South Sudan Fiscal Allocation and Monitoring Commission Chairperson and an Emmanuel Jieng parish member Mr. Gabriel Mathiang Rok said that this is the first time we are celebrating Christmas as a free and independent nation. “What we are reminded is to praise God and to develop our nation,” he added.

Mrs. Rebecca Nyandeng the wife of the late hero Dr. John Garang told the congregation that our people had fought the war to give us this freedom. She reminded them that if there was something bothering them, they should just be patient, “let us not spoil our own freedom, those who are against the government will never succeed,” she noted.

Nyandeng encouraged the war widows to be patience and to keep on praying for their country.

Thousands visit Bethlehem on Christmas Eve

Posted: December 24, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural

By DALIA NAMARI | AP – 1 hr 48 mins ago

  • A Christian pilgrim lines up to go inside the Grotto, at the Church of Nativity, believed by many to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)A Christian pilgrim lines up to go inside the Grotto, at the Church of Nativity, …
  • A Christian pilgrim prays inside the Church of Nativity, believed by many to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)A Christian pilgrim prays inside the Church of Nativity, believed by many to be the …

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Thousands of pilgrims, tourists and local Christians gathered in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday to begin Christmas Eve celebrations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Visitors gathered near the 50-foot (15-meter) Christmas tree at Manger Square Saturday morning taking pictures and enjoying the sunshine.

The main event will be Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, built over the location where Jesus is believed to have been born.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it expects 90,000 tourists to visit the holy land for the holiday. Ministry spokeswoman Lydia Weitzman said that number is the same as last year’s record-breaking tally, but was surprisingly high considering the turmoil in the Arab world and the U.S. and European economic downturns.

Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh said he hopes this year’s celebrations will bring Palestinians closer to their dream of statehood. With peace talks stalled with Israel, Palestinians this year made a unilateral bid for recognition at the United Nations and were accepted as a member by UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency.

“We are celebrating this Christmas hoping that in the near future we’ll get our right to self-determination our right to establish our own democratic, secular Palestinian state on the Palestinian land. That is why this Christmas is unique,” Batarseh told The Associated Press.

Bethlehem is today surrounded on three sides by a barrier Israel built to stop Palestinian militants from attacking during a wave of assaults in the last decade. Palestinians say the barrier damaged their economy.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the Roman Catholic Church’s head clergyman in the Holy Land, crossed through a massive metal gate in the barrier, in a traditional midday procession from Jerusalem on Saturday.

“We ask the child of Bethlehem to give us the peace we are in desperate need for, peace in the Middle East, peace in the holy land, peace in the heart and in our families,” Twal said.

The number of Christians in the West Bank is on the decline. While some leave for economic reasons, others talk of discrimination and harassment by the Muslim majority.

Christians have even lost their majority in Bethlehem, where more than two-thirds of the some 50,000 Palestinian residents are now Muslim.

The biblical town was bustling on Saturday, however, with Christian tourists and pilgrims.

“This is my first time in Bethlehem and it’s an electrifying feeling to be here at the birthplace of Jesus during Christmas,” said 49-year-old Abraham Rai from Karla, India.


KHARTOUM, Sudan — Hanging from the wall of Bishop Ezekiel Kondo’s living room — a few blocks from a silver-coated dome marking the tomb of Sudan’s 19th-century Muslim leader, the Mahdi — are a cross, pictures of fellow clergy members and a photo of him with the former archbishop of Canterbury above a small plastic Christmas tree.

Much has changed for Bishop Kondo, and for the nation, since the holidays last year. Though he presides over one of Sudan’s largest churches, he is more in the minority than ever. South Sudan, with its large Christian population, became an independent nation over the summer, making for a Christmas of mixed emotions.

“This Christmas, since Southern Sudanese have gone, we don’t know what the attendance will be, but I would say people will celebrate with mixed feeling of joy and fear,” said Bishop Kondo, who is the bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the former chairman of the Sudanese Council of Churches.

South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly in a referendum early this year to separate from Sudan, the culmination of a peace accord to end decades of war and hostilities with the largely Muslim north. But while South Sudanese Christians constituted the majority of what was the Sudanese Christian community, they are not all of them.

“There is an idea that Southern Sudanese have gone, therefore, the church has gone. That is not true,” Bishop Kondo said. “Sometimes, I am asked, ‘When will you go to South Sudan?’ ‘But I’m not from the south,’ I reply!” he said.

Bishop Kondo is from South Kordofan, a state dominated by ethnic Nuba, who are divided between Islam, Christianity and African traditional religions. Fighting erupted there last May between government forces and rebels allied with the party that now governs South Sudan. Thousands fled, including Archdeacon Hassan Sudan.

“I called friends in South Kordofan, and they say they’ve prepared for Christmas but found some difficulties because of security concerns; there were some harassments,” the archdeacon said.

Christian leaders in Sudan have long complained about devastating bureaucracy, discrimination in jobs, restrictions on outreach and the difficulty of constructing churches. Nabil Bolis, 41, a teacher at the Episcopal Savior’s Church in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city across the Nile, said the annual March for Jesus this year faced challenges.

“We first started the march in greater Khartoum back in 1997, but this year there are more bureaucratic restrictions,” said Mr. Bolis, a nephew of the late Christian Nuba leader Phillip Ghabboush.

More pressing, however, is the expected drop in overseas donations for churches in Sudan now that the larger group of worshipers, administrators and teachers has moved to South Sudan.

“We definitely think this is going to happen,” said Pastor Milla Longa, 49, of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Khartoum.

While concerns weigh heavily on the minds of many Sudanese Christian leaders, Bishop Kondo pointed out that Sudanese government officials had expressed a keenness to work with them.

“The Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments have approached us to know what the timetable of services and celebrations are this Christmas, to come and congratulate, but to also make sure people celebrate peacefully,” he said. “I think this is a good gesture.”

Safwat Fanous , a University of Khartoum political science professor and a member of the Coptic Church, agrees that the government is still reaching out to Christians to some extent. But he said it was no longer recognizing Christmas as a general holiday, but as a holiday solely for members of Western churches.

“It is important to see government officials continue to participate in Christian celebrations as a sign of religious coexistence,” Mr. Fanous said. “Dec. 25 used to be a public holiday for all; now it will be a holiday only for members of Western churches.”

Tayeb Zein al-Abidin, a professor at the University of Khartoum and a former chairman of the Sudanese Inter-Religious Council, does not think that the Sudanese government will take aim at Sudanese Christians for religious purposes. But it may not “give them the same political considerations” it did when the south was part of Sudan, he said.

“It is a now a matter of numbers, not religion,” he said.

But numbers are also debatable. The Sudanese government puts the new percentage of Christians in Sudan at just 3 percent, a figure Bishop Kondo contests.

“We don’t know how this number was arrived to, but as churches, we are working on this,” he said. “We believe it is closer to 10 to 15 percent now.”

Among the Nuba of South Kordofan, it is not uncommon to find members of the same family who belong to different religions, something that Mr. Bolis believes makes Christmas in Sudan special.

Despite the concerns, a Khartoum Christmas will go on this year.

“We won’t have turkey for dinner, but lamb, groundnuts, dates and baobab juice to drink,” Mr. Bolis said with a smile.

Fewer to Celebrate Christmas in Sudan After South’s Split
New York Times
Though he presides over one of Sudan’s largest churches, he is more in the minority than ever. South Sudan, with its large Christian population, became an independent nation over the summer, making for a Christmas of mixed emotions.

South Sudan: Commuters Get Stranded As Christmas Season Starts
Wau — As the inhabitants of Western Bahr el Ghazal State capital of Wau prepare to travel to the countryside to join families for Christmas, several commuters are stranded in bus stations while Wau main airstrip remained scheduled busy with long

Oromia-Ethiopia: Land-Grab, Green-Revolution, and the North-South Divide Oduu – News
Just like the South used to be dominated by the North in the Sudan before the independence of South Sudan earlier in 2011, North Ethiopia (or traditionally called the highlands of Ethiopia or Abyssinia) has always controlled the political & economic

UNSC extends mandate of Abyei peacekeepers, demands pullout of troops
Sudan Tribune
December 23, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The UN Security Council (UNSC) has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Abyei and reiterated demands that Sudan and South Sudan immediately redeploy their remaining forces from the contested region.

The gift of sight: Clinic started by CNY “Lost Boy” restores sight for hundreds
Alan Crandall and Dr. Geoffrey Tabin examine a patient who received cataract surgery at the Duk Lost Boys clinic in South Sudan. One day after performing surgery in a rural South Sudan village, Dr. Geoffrey Tabin carefully removed bandages from the

Cattle raids kill at least 250 in Lakes state in 2011
Sudan Tribune
Rumbek East Commissioner, David Marial Gumke, address the Lakes state parliament in South Sudan, while being watched by speaker John Marik (Right), 23 Dec. 2011 (ST)sitted The figures from just three counties in Lakes state show that insecurity remains

By Kelly Dwyer

Air Jordan fans destroy property, trample shoppers in search of new shoes
Michael Jordan fans and a whole lot of utter and absolute morons descended upon malls across America early Friday morning to push each other over and destroy property in order to buy some basketball shoes.The re-release of the Air Jordan 11 can hardly be called a “re-release,” because Nike and Jordan Brand attempted (and succeeded) to dish up some needless hype and intrigue by only releasing 100 pairs of the shoes to certain stores. Twenty-five years into this game, both companies knew that the limited supply would result in long lines and potential chaos as shoppers attempted to grab a pair, but Nike and Jordan Brand haven’t always been on the cutting edge when it comes to caring about anything more than the bottom line, have they?Why care, when you can drive people to this, as reported by ABC:

Police had to smash the windows of a car to get two toddlers out after a woman had left them there to go buy the shoes. She was taken into custody when she returned, according to the AP.

The Indianapolis Star was at one particularly ugly scene:

“The door broke and was hanging by a hinge and people were squeezing in anyway,” Asia Coates said “People were falling down.”

She said one woman was knocked down, got back up and was the second person to buy the shoes.

Andre Mitchell, 28, Indianapolis, said he stepped over downed shoppers. “It wasn’t personal, it was business,” Mitchell explained.

No, it’s not business. You’re just a moron.

The shoes in question are the patent leather-trimmed Jordan-endorsed sneakers that MJ wore during theChicago Bulls‘ 1995-96 championship run. Those particular shoes are idealized by most because that run included Chicago’s record-setting 72-win season, and they’re idealized by this writer because that was the season that helped me determine, for sure, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Fifteen years later, that campaign is the reason I write about basketball for a living.

So take it from this absolute basketball junkie, anyone that was falling over themselves or anyone else to secure a pair of $180 shoes just because of their stature or because they can be flipped and re-sold for a higher amount is an absolute, unmitigated, moron. Stepping over downed shoppers, as the Star reported Andre Mitchell doing, isn’t about something that’s “personal.” It’s ugly and borderline criminal.

And it’s doubtful that Michael Jordan, some 20-plus years after reports surfaced of fans of his shoes killing over them, has learned anything in all the years. The NSFW scene depicted here (with the description “This is what Michael Jordan does to us.”) is apparently of no interest to him, considering that these are the sorts of reactions that happen every single time he releases or re-releases a pair of shoes in limited supply just to drum up “exclusivity.”

It’s hard to find anyone coming out of this looking good. Even those that succeeded in buying the kicks without harming anyone or anything — because they’ll be sporting patent leather shoes like some 1950s-era uncle.

South Sudanese gear up for Christmas in Holy Land

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël in Socio-Cultural


South Sudan native  “We pray and dance all night,” says Tel Aviv upholsterer.


Simon Koang Gai would love to slaughter a cow for the traditional South Sudanese Christmas feast, but pulling off such a holiday treat would be far too expensive in Israel.
“It cost very much money to buy a cow in Israel,” Gai said.

The 39-year-old South Sudan native owns the appropriately named “Holy Land” upholstery store on Chelnov Street in south Tel Aviv, where he refurbishes motorcycle seats and furniture and repairs satellite dishes.

On Wednesday, he spoke excitedly about the upcoming Christmas celebrations his community was planning at their church in south Tel Aviv, in particular the late-night praying and dancing extravaganza that is Christmas Eve for South Sudanese.

“We pray and dance all night, but it’s not dancing for us, it’s dancing for the lord,” Gai said.

The day after the all-night festival at the church on Levanda street in Tel Aviv and at the community’s church in Arad, those who can will make their way to Bethlehem on Sunday.

Gai said on Christmas, South Sudanese travel far and wide to reunite with their families in their home villages, traveling back home from Khartoum and beyond, often at great risk.

In addition, Gai said they travel from house to house bringing good tidings to their neighbors, and that massive communal barbecues are held.

When asked if they decorate Christmas trees, he replied matter-of-factly, “no, we don’t have those trees in South Sudan.”

Gai moved to Israel three years ago after spending four years in Egypt, where he arrived after fleeing South Sudan. Owing to his fervent evangelical faith, Gai keeps a bible on hand and highlights his points with scripture. Thumbing through the book of Isaiah, he comes to chapter 18 verses 1-7, which describe (King James 2000) “a people tall and smooth of skin” who come from a land “the rivers divide” and make their way to Mount Zion.

He rolls up his sleeve to reveal what is indeed a hairless forearm, which along with his well over 6-foot frame would suggest a resemblance to the description given in the book of Isaiah.

Gai said the Christian population in the South Sudanese community in Israel – estimated to number around 3,000 – is mainly Evangelical with some Catholics, mostly in the community in the Negev city of Arad. As opposed to Sudan, South Sudan is predominantly Christian and Animist, with a Muslim minority. The Christianity practiced in the country has been heavily influenced by local traditions and has customs quite different than those practiced in the West.

A few blocks away, at a hair salon outside the new central bus station, Johannes Aforki, a 28-year-old Eritrean of Ethiopian extract chewed khat leaves and spoke of Christmas traditions in his Orthodox Christian homeland as the mild narcotic stimulant seeped into his veins.

“There’s no work on Christmas, it’s a holiday. We go to church and pray, and you buy new clothes for Christmas and wear them.”

“I haven’t seen my family in 10 years, but I’ll call them and talk to them on the phone,” Aforki said, adding that he’ll probably cry speaking to them as another holiday passes without them.

South Sudan: Country and the Great Achievements in 2011
In the first part of the article, we had said the great achievements which the South Sudan had witnessed in 2011, was the overwhelmingly voting for separation and the declaration of the independent by hoisting the south Sudan freedom flag on 9 July
South Sudan: Some Citizens Suggest Athor Body Thrown Into the Nile
Juba — Debates are raging on how the body of late Renegade General George Athor Deng would be buried after he was shot dead on Monday by the SPLA forces in Morobo County, Central Equatoria State. Vice President Dr. Riak Machar Teny when he announced
US Issues Travel Warning On South Sudan
RTT News
(RTTNews) – The US State Department has warned American citizens of the risks of travel to South Sudan and “strongly” recommended them to defer all travel to that African country. In a Travel Warning update issued on Thursday, it reminded US citizens
Sudan again terrorizing its own people
BP News
USCIRF released an eight-page report in mid-December on the crisis in Sudan based on interviews staff members conducted in October with more than 80 refugees, including many at a refugee camp in the newly constituted Republic of South Sudan.

Sudanese Gangs

OMAHA, Neb. — When government soldiers from the north attacked Mun Nam Koak’s village in southern Sudan nearly 20 years ago, he fled on foot to safety in neighboring Ethiopia. With his infant son on his back, the 22-year-old Nam and his wife took only what they could carry on their three-day trek to the crowded refugee camps across the border.

Three years later, Koak’s young family arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, part of a growing population of Sudanese refugees who relocated to the Midwest in search of a better, safer life. He studied English and found a steady job at a nursing home.

Back in his homeland this July, a historic referendum established South Sudan as a separate nation after decades of brutal civil war with the north. Koak joined thousands of jubilant Sudanese in Iowa and across the country cheering this day of independence. But his elation was short-lived.

Late last month, his son, James Mun, 19, was gunned down in an empty lot on Omaha’s gritty north side, as he drank beer with a group of friends early one Saturday morning. Police have made no arrests in the case.

“I can never imagine that I would end up losing my son on the streets of the United States,” Koak said.

Mun’s murder is the grim consequence of a rising tide of youth and gang violence afflicting Sudanese refugees in the U.S., who have settled mainly in Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwest states. From weekend brawls to shootings and robberies, young Sudanese are victims and victimizers, ending up in hospital beds, behind bars — or dead.

Sudanese street gangs that began forming around 2003 are responsible for the most serious violence, according to Bruce Ferrell, a former gang unit detective with the Omaha Police Department.

“They’ve been involved in a murder attempt on a witness, drive-by shootings, robberies,” said Ferrell, who now leads the Midwest Gang Investigators Association, a non-profit group that studies gang trends in the region. “We’ve had a number of kids getting locked up.”

With no more than 350 members overall, most of them teenagers, the Sudanese gangs represent a small fraction of a massive nationwide gang problem, in which an estimated 1.4 million gang members commit nearly half of all violent crimes in most jurisdictions, according to law enforcement surveys. But their illegal acts earned them a brief mention for the first time in the FBI’s latest national gang threat assessment, released this October.

The agency described African Pride, which began in Omaha but has spread to Lincoln and other Midwest cities with Sudanese refugee populations, as the “most aggressive and dangerous” of the gangs. Other gangs include the South Sudan Soldiers, TripSet and 402, who take their name from the Nebraska area code.

Sudanese community leaders in Nebraska do not deny the gangs’ existence, but describe their members as misguided youths, not hardened criminals. With help from city and state agencies, Sudanese groups are working to identify at-risk young people and steer them away from crime.

“I will agree that there are Sudanese gangs in Omaha,” said Malakal Goak, a Sudanese refugee and director of Caring People Sudan, an Omaha-based non-profit group that provides health and educational services to the refugee community. “But even though there are gangs, we still have a very strong culture that can redirect them to come back to a normal life of the community.”

The emergence of the gangs follows a familiar pattern. Driven by poverty, social dislocation and other factors, street gangs have arisen from virtually every immigrant and refugee population to arrive in the U.S. for well over a century, according to Mike Carlie, a retired professor of criminology at the University of Southern Missouri and author of a book on street gangs.

“It’s called the immigrant tradition,” Carlie said. “It’s something that communities should know about before they ever begin to take on a population like this.”


For over 50 years, Sudan — a political invention of British colonizers in East Africa, covering an area nearly three times the size of Western Europe — was wracked by civil war between the ethnically Arab and Muslim north and the black, Christian and animist south.

A 2005 peace settlement, brokered in part by the U.S., finally halted the conflict between north and south, which had claimed more than 2 million lives. By that time, millions of Sudanese had fled the south to live in sprawling camps in neighboring Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.

The United Nations ultimately resettled nearly 31,000 refugees from these camps in the U.S. with the help of religious groups such as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In the 1990s, Omaha emerged as an unlikely hub for the Sudanese, both for primary resettlement from camps in Africa, and for secondary resettlement, as refugees placed in other cities migrated there in search of jobs, cheap housing and a sense of community.

Many Sudanese arrived in the U.S. with next to nothing. “You would see a family of six with not one bag,” Goak said.

The federal government, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, provides newly arrived refugees with 90 days of intensive assistance, including housing, food, clothing and employment.

Lutheran Family Services acted as a contractor for the federal program for Sudanese arriving in Omaha. Neither state or federal agencies track the number of Sudanese on a city-by-city basis, but Amy Richardson, vice president of refugee resettlement services for the agency, estimated the population in Omaha was now between 10,000 to 15,000.

Richardson said her agency had successfully placed almost 90 percent of Sudanese arrivals in Omaha in a job during the three months of the federal assistance program, but she acknowledged that her agency did not keep close tabs on the welfare or employment status of individual refugees after that period.

“After that 90 days and beyond, we kind of don’t have access to knowing how long they kept that job, or what trajectory they were on after that,” she said.

Yet based on her interactions with individual Sudanese, she said it appeared that the community was doing well. “I think that Omaha has done a very good job of assimilating these folks,” she said.

Some Sudanese in Omaha have clearly thrived, opening shops, restaurants and other small businesses, buying homes, mastering English and attaining college degrees. The high school graduation rate of Sudanese youth has also improved, reaching roughly 50 percent this year, community leaders said. Several Sudanese students have recently earned prestigious college scholarships.

But those successes are at risk of being overshadowed by violence and criminality among the younger generation of refugees.

Chuol Yiel, 35, a Sudanese refugee, arrived in the U.S. alone and penniless in 1995, and settled in Omaha in 1999. Today he works nights at a postal company while he finishes an undergraduate degree in psychology at a local university.

“Among the young people, there are some that have gone to college and even graduated,” Yiel said. “There are a few that are doing very well.”

But many more youth, he said, were turning to gangs and delinquency.

“The youngsters, a big number of them are not doing as good as we expected them to do in the society. They are getting involved in these negative experiences,” he said. “These are the ones who could be the future.”

One critical problem for the Sudanese community was a lack of preparation by the city’s public schools for the complex needs of refugee families, said Susan Mayberger, coordinator for migrant and refugee programming for Omaha Public Schools. The school district has taken steps to address the problem by adding programs that encourage parental involvement, she said.

“I am afraid that with the Sudanese community, with a lot of the parents, we weren’t supporting them to the same level that we are now,” Mayberger said.

The lack of parental engagement led many young Sudanese people to drop out and drift into trouble, she said. For those that did end up in gangs, some parents either could not, or would not, understand or acknowledge their children‒s involvement.

“I would say we lost some of those kids,” she said.


Dak More is tired of the violence.

More, 25, was born in a small farming village in southern Sudan. As a young boy he fled with his mother and siblings across the border into Ethiopia after his father was shot and killed by government soldiers from the north.

Many other relatives stayed and died, including a 12-year-old brother killed while fighting in the rebel army. At age 10, he and his mother left Kakuma, a sprawling refuge camp in eastern Kenya, for San Diego, after the U.S. State Department granted them refugee status. In his early teens, the family relocated to Omaha, where he completed high school.

He lives in Southside Terrace, a public housing project, sharing a cramped two-bedroom apartment with his mother, Nyatut, 64, and his three young children. Since graduating high school, he has worked at a series of meat-packing plants in the area. The conditions are hard but the pay is decent, he said.

On a Friday night in December, police cars rolled through the neighborhood, quiet and cold under a blanket of freshly fallen snow. More stood on the stoop of his apartment, wearing a bright yellow L.A. Lakers jersey under a heavy winter coat and a wool cap. He pointed out a group of young Sudanese walking up the street wearing black jackets, red shirts and bandanas: members of the M.O.B. gang.

“It’s rough out here, man,” More said. “Every Friday there is a shooting.”

Growing up in Omaha was difficult from the very start, he said. As a teenager, he and other young Sudanese in the housing project were attacked and harassed by African-American youth, local members of the Crips and Bloods. His left arm still aches from the time he was beaten with a baseball bat during a fight. “They think the Sudanese sold them to America for slaves,” he said.

To protect themselves, More said, the Sudanese formed their own gangs. Soon, they were committing crimes, mostly petty robberies, and brawling at parties on weekends. At 18, More briefly joined a gang and got in a few fights, but quit after a year. Friends and cousins have been shot and sent to prison, he said.

Recently, More wearied of the growing violence and began looking for ways to help bring the community’s young people under control. For six months this year, he worked as a translator and a source of information for the Omaha police department, providing details about delinquent teenagers and brewing trouble among the city’s Sudanese gangs.

This June, he helped disrupt a plot by a group of teenage gang members to kill a witness to a violent robbery by translating recordings of jailhouse conversations.

Shortly thereafter, the police department ended his temporary position. According to Lt. Darci Tierney, a police department spokeswoman, city law enforcement currently has no paid liaison with the Sudanese community.

Lack of resources for law enforcement is a problem for the entire city, said Ben Gray, a city councilman who represents north Omaha and sits on the board of the Omaha Housing Authority. “Our police department is stretched about as far as it can be.”

With police resources strained, the violence continues, both among the Sudanese and the community at large. A surge of shootings and homicides this November and December put the city on track for its highest homicide rate in several years, forcing city officials to speak out about the problem. “The number of shootings we’ve seen in the past few weeks is unacceptable,” Omaha mayor Jim Settle said in a press conference on Dec. 13.

City officials point to efforts to spur job creation in disadvantaged neighborhoods and provide resources and activities for at-risk youth as part of a concerted push to increase public safety. “There’s a huge community effort going on right now to reduce the violence,” Tierney said.

But Malakal Goak, the Sudanese non-profit director, said that desperately needed funds for sports and after-school programs had been requested from both state and city agencies, to no avail.

“We consider coming to the U.S. as a blessing,” Goak said. But, he added, “the resources for our young people are not there.”

Compounding the gang problem is the lack of jobs for young people and their parents caused by the economic slowdown, he said.

“It’s very uncertain living here,” he said. “In the past it used to be much better, but not anymore.”


To some Omaha leaders, the troubles now afflicting the Sudanese refugee community could have been anticipated.

Gray, the city councilman, called their resettlement in the city during the 1990s and early 2000s well-meaning but poorly thought out.

“We didn’t think through what we were going to do after they got here,” Gray said. “We didn’t think about what were the services they were going to need and how we were going to provide them.”

As more than 10,000 refugees flooded into inner-city neighborhoods and housing projects already struggling with poverty and high crime, services were cut, not bolstered. The result was inadequate policing and a lack of public resources for a community with extraordinary needs, he said.

“You’ve got a recipe for some serious difficulty when you bring in that number of people,” he said.

The levels of poverty and violence in the primarily African-American neighborhoods in Omaha where many Sudanese settled are among the highest in the country, census and law enforcement data shows.

Unemployment among Omaha’s almost 55,000 African-Americans averaged nearly 23 percent in 2010, well above the national average for African-Americans of 17 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. In some individual census tracts in North Omaha, the unemployment rate reaches as high as 35 percent or more, Gray said. Poverty rates in the city’s African-American community are also among the very worst in the country.

Persistent poverty has created fertile ground for violent street gangs, which arrived in the 1980s from Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas and established control over the city’s drug trade. Drug-fueled gang violence peaked in the mid-1990s in Omaha, as it did in most other U.S. cities. But the gangs and the violence have only ebbed somewhat, not abated.

According to a 2010 study of national homicide data, Nebraska had the third-highest state homicide rate for African-Americans in the country in 2008, due almost entirely to violence in Omaha’s inner-city neighborhoods.

Omaha’s homicide rate dipped by more than 30 percent in 2009, and city officials credited the decline to a series of youth-oriented jobs and recreation programs in violence-wracked areas. But homicides have steadily crept back up since then, and by the end of the 2011 they were approaching the past decade’s highs.

Violence spiked in November, with a string of shootings and homicides clustered on Omaha’s north side. In one weekend, there were seven shootings, two fatal.

One of those killed was James Mun, 19, whose murder was recorded briefly in a story about the wave of shootings in the Omaha World-Herald. The reporter did not note his Sudanese heritage.


James Mun’s death might have been averted but for a missed flight.

In July, Mun Nam Koak, his father, bought a plane ticket to take him from Omaha to East Africa, a region he had not seen since he escaped the civil war between northern and southern Sudan as an infant. He would have arrived just days before South Sudan officially achieved independence, becoming the world’s newest nation.

The goal of the trip was to get his son out of the U.S., where he had dropped out of community college and was drifting into trouble with the law, Koak said.

“I absolutely wanted to get him out of the country,” he said. “I was worried about his friends. They were involved in the drinking, not going to school. I don’t like that.”

“It’s not the way we live life in Africa,” he said.

Mun never made the trip. The night before his flight, he was arrested while out drinking with friends in north Omaha. He spent the night in jail and missed his plane.

Mun told his father that he wanted to spend a couple of months in Omaha, to work and save some money. Then, in November, his father bought him another plane ticket to South Sudan. It also went unused.

Early in the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19, Mun was shot in the head in an empty lot near a north Omaha freeway overpass. His friends drove him to a nearby hospital, where he died the next day. Police have made no arrests.

Koak said he had heard that his son’s killers were Sudanese. But he denied that his son was involved in gang activities.

“He was not gang. He was not bad person. He was not criminal,” he said. “My son did not do anything to anybody.”

But others who knew his son, including his cousin Gatweth Root, said Mun was affiliated with the South Sudan Soldiers, and pointed to gang references in postings and photos by and about him on Facebook. Root said the murder may have been motivated by a dispute over a girl with a member of the African Pride gang, and if police do not solve the case, there will likely be a retaliatory attack.

“His dad might not know it, but he’s gang,” said Dak More. “His friends are going to pay it back.”

James Mun, 19, was shot to death in an empty lot on Omaha’s gritty north side while hanging out with friends early on the morning of Nov. 19. Born in southern Sudan, his father carried him to safety across the border in Ethiopia after government soldiers attacked their village. He arrived in the U.S. with his mother and father in 1995.
Malakal Goak, a Sudanese refugee and director of Caring People Sudan, a non-profit group in Omaha, said that young Sudanese in the city were in need of sports and after-school programs to stay out of trouble, but funds for these activities were unavailable from city and state agencies.
Bruce Ferrell, a former gang unit detective with the Omaha Police Department said that Sudanese street gangs began forming in the city around 2003 and were responsible for a growing number of crimes, including shootings and robberies.
Nyatut More, 64, points to a photograph of her brother, killed in Sudan’s second civil war. She fled with her children across the border into Ethiopia after her husband was shot and killed by government soldiers from the north in 1992. The U.N. granted her and her children refugee status in 1995 and relocated them to San Diego. Several years later they settled in Omaha.
Rebel fighters march in 1998, at the height of Sudan’s second civil war. A 2005 peace settlement, brokered in part by the U.S., finally halted the conflict between north and south, which had claimed more than 2 million lives. By that time, millions of Sudanese had fled the south to live in sprawling camps in neighboring Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir lifts South Sudan’s new constitution to the crowds of people attending an independence ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, on Saturday July 9, 2011. South Sudan celebrated its first day as an independent nation Saturday, raising its flag for the first time before tens of thousands of cheering citizens elated to reach the end of a 50-year struggle.
Sudanese refugees stand in line to cast their ballots for the South Sudan referendum election at an “Out of Country Voting Locations” precinct Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz.