Posts Tagged ‘Peter Biar Ajak’

One-Year Anniversary of the Arrest of Kerbino Wol: The piece describes the ongoing case of Kerbino Wol, who stands on trial in Juba, alongside Peter Biar Ajak and 5 other defendants, for the 7 October protest at the Blue House. Tomorrow, 27 April, marks exactly one year since the unlawful arrest of Kerbino Wol. 

By Dr. Robert A. Portada III, Pennsylvania, USA

South Sudanese businessman, Kerbino Wol Agok, and South Sudanese PhD student, Peter Biar Ajak

Friday, April 26, 2019 (PW) — One year ago, on 27 April 2018, Kerbino Wol, the young, South Sudanese entrepreneur and philanthropist, was arrested without charge and incarcerated at the Blue House, the headquarters of the National Security Service (NSS).

Following his unlawful arrest, Kerbino was subjected to torturous conditions.  He has been accosted in his cell in the dead of night by masked agents threatening his disappearance.  Injuries to his kidneys from these struggles left him urinating blood for several weeks.  He would spend months in solitary confinement, nursing his wounds on his own without access to medical care.  Kerbino’s requests to meet with his family and lawyers were repeatedly denied. 

Kerbino Wol

He frequently went days (often consecutively) without receiving any food, only to learn later on that his relatives had been bringing food to the facility for him, which was instead eaten by officers of the NSS.  Kerbino has suffered from typhoid, ulcers, and malnutrition, leaving him in a frail condition that was only alleviated by an emergency visit to a clinic in February.  

Through all of this, he has lived in fear of being abused and abducted by agents of the NSS.


Prior to the historic decision by the Council of Ministers to completely shut down the country’s oil production, oil revenues accounted for over 98% of the Republic South Sudan expenditures, 99% of foreign exchange earnings, and over 70% of South Sudan GDP.  The 10 states of South Sudan depended on transfers from the Central Government for the bulk of their own expenditures.  This post outlines macroeconomic impact of the shutdown and possible scenarios that may emerge.—By Peter Biar Ajak, Director of C-SAR

Peter Biar Ajak: For “Lost Boy,” A Mission Found

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in People

Editorial: We are re-posting this message in honor and celebration of “Peter Biar Ajak’s” colorful wedding to “Nyathon Hoth Mai” –the daughter of the Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), James Hoth Mai–which occurred in Juba, South Sudan, December 17th, 2011. Enjoys!

For “Lost Boy,” A Mission Found

August 4, 2009
by Steve Nadis

Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Harvard Kennedy School Magazine.

Many people graduate from Harvard Kennedy School with a clear idea of how they’d like to put their training and newly gained credentials to use. But few graduates leave the school with a greater sense of urgency about their mission than Peter Biar Ajak MPA/ID 2009, who vowed to return to his native country immediately after June commencement.

That urgency stems from Ajak’s remarkable life story and the hardships he’s endured en route to earning a Harvard degree, learning critical skills, and thereby putting himself in a position to lead his nation in a time of need.

Ajak is a former “Lost Boy,” one of tens of thousands of Sudanese youths who became separated from their families during the civil war that was waged between the mostly Christian people of southern Sudan and the mostly Muslim people of the north from 1983 to 2005, when a peace agreement was finally achieved. Though he was born in 1984, a year after the war began, his community was largely untouched by the fighting for the first five years of his life.

All that changed in 1989, when Ajak’s village was attacked by the Sudanese army. Many people were killed. Those survivors who were up to it walked hundreds of miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Being just five years old at the time, Ajak was carried much of the way by his father. He remained in the camp for two years with his mother, brothers, and sisters, while his father fought for their cause with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

In 1991, the Ethiopian regime that had allowed southern Sudanese refugees to stay in its country collapsed in a coup. The new regime, which was hostile to the SPLA, kicked them out. Having nowhere else to go, Ajak and his family walked toward their village, which was ostensibly safer now that the SPLA had regained control over much of the south.

But that semblance of security was short-lived. At the time, the SPLA was splitting into two factions — one dominated by the Dinka tribe, to which Ajak’s family belonged, and the other dominated by the Nuer tribe. The Nuer faction attacked his village and killed more than 10,000 people in the region.

Going home was no longer an option, which forced the family to walk even farther at the height of the rainy season, with no place to go and nowhere to live. They ended up in the southern town of Pachalla, along with thousands of Sudanese refugees who descended from all parts of Ethiopia. “With nothing to eat and diseases floating around, people were dying like flies,” recalls Ajak, who witnessed this suffering as a seven-year-old. “On top of that, we had constant worries of being attacked by both the northern army and the Nuer rebels.”

One night, as Ajak and some other boys played a game called Lions and Goats on the outskirts of the settlement, they heard some loud booms and knew that their encampment had come under fire. They lay down, covered their heads as they’d been instructed to do, and waited for the shooting to stop. After things quieted down, they went back to their town and didn’t see anyone — alive, that is. Those who hadn’t been killed had disappeared, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.

Eventually Ajak and his fellow Lost Boys came under the protection of the SPLA. They traveled with the soldiers, received some military training, and were even called the “Red Army.” About six months later, Ajak found his family again: His father, an SPLA officer, had asked his fellow soldiers to be on the lookout. Many of the other Lost Boys, of course, were not so fortunate, and remain orphans to this day.

Life was not easy for Ajak, despite the family reunion. Taking advantage of the SPLA fissure, northern forces began driving southerners off their land. In 1992, Ajak and others had to make another walk — this the most grueling of all, because it occurred during two months of the dry season. They hiked hundreds of miles in searing heat, often going for days without a drop of water. Many died of thirst along the way.

Arriving in Kapoeta, in the southeastern corner of the country, they were once again attacked by northern fighters, who took over the town. Then they walked through the desert to a refugee camp in northern Kenya. Ajak remained in Kenya until 2001, when he joined more than 3,000 other Lost Boys who took advantage of an offer to come to the United States.

He lived in Philadelphia with a man who hosted three other Sudanese boys. The 17-year-old Ajak entered 11th grade, despite the fact that he spoke no English and had the equivalent of an eighth-grade education at best. On top of his efforts to learn English, catch up with his classmates, and get acclimated to American culture, he took a job loading and unloading packages with ups, so that he could have money to send home to his mother. He still managed to do well enough in school to get into LaSalle College in Philadelphia. As an underclassman in 2006, he came to the Kennedy School as part of a public policy leadership conference, which helped pique his interest in graduate school.

Upon graduating from LaSalle in 2007, Ajak chose to continue his studies at the Kennedy School for several reasons. First, he felt the Master in Public Administration in International Development program was just what he was looking for.

“Sudan desperately needs development,” he says. “We’ll need it in five years, and we’ll need it in ten years.” He was certain the skills he acquired in economics, management, and policy would help him contribute to his country.

Second, he was inspired by the ideals the Kennedy School embodies and the dedication to public service it instills. “This school offers a way to turn that passion into concrete policy steps,” he says.

Finally, “the fact that I was going to Harvard would mean a lot to other Lost Boys who didn’t have the chance,” he says. “It shows that everything is possible. With the right combination of luck and opportunity, you can accomplish anything if you work hard for it.”

Ajak is anxious to return to Sudan because he feels he is “racing with time.” In a referendum slated for March 2011, southern Sudanese citizens will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or become independent.

“If we are to become an independent nation,” he says, “there’s much to be done to get ourselves ready to run our own affairs.”

Though he’s prepared to serve his country any way he can, Ajak believes that working for southern Sudan’s Ministry of Defense might make the most sense. “A lot of our challenges today are security related. The peace agreements must be protected, not only by soldiers but also by having the right policies in place.”

Every generation going back to his father’s, grandfather’s, and great-grandfather’s has faced war with the north. This cycle has to stop, Ajak says. “Even though terrible experiences prepare you for whatever challenges you might encounter later, I don’t want the people of Sudan to ever have to go through that again.”

Wrestlers fight to unite world’s newest nation

Posted: August 16, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy, Socio-Cultural

(CNN) — With ash applied to their bodies and determination glinting in their eyes, two young tribal wrestlers stride onto a large field under the hot South Sudanese sun.

In the next few minutes, the fighters will give everything they have to knock their opponent down and achieve tribal glory amid the cheers of the gathered crowd.

For years, the tribes of South Sudan have fought over pasture and raided each other’s cattle. But today, thanks largely to the efforts of one of Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” the common cultural ground of wrestling is being used to unite the still-divided communities in the world’s newest country.

Peter Biar Ajak — an economist who’s returned to Sudan 22 years after fleeing its civil war as a child — is organizing traditional wrestling matches as way to help ease tensions among South Sudan’s more than 60 tribes.

Fleeing Sudan’s civil war

From refugee to Harvard graduate

Wrestling to unite Sudan’s tribes

He says the sport reminds the ethnic groups of South Sudan of the things that unite them.

“To bring peace among the tribes in South Sudan will take a lot of things but wrestling is an integral part of that process,” he says. “It reminds people of their commonalities — what do they share in common — and through that they see that they are the same people and there is nothing else that can do that.

“But it needs to be complemented by other things: delivery of services, education, health — people need to feel that their life is changing.”

Starting with the daunting task of getting the tribes to participate, Ajak and his South Sudan Wrestling Company have so far organized three tournaments.

Ajak says the results have been tremendous. He says he’s seen people from the rival Dinka and Mundari tribes come together after meeting at wrestling matches.

“The women whose husbands were killed, they were cooking for the men from the communities that killed their husbands,” he says.

“There are all these kinds of stories, the harmony that is bringing, the unity that is bringing. Bringing people from the Nuba mountains to come and wrestle — it is something that is historic and never been seen before and it shows that the spirit of the wrestling and the objective in which we created it are working.”

The initiative not only promotes peace but also brings economic benefits for those who participate; each wrestler is paid 1,000 Sudanese pounds — about $400 — per match.

“That is the price for a cow,” says Ajak. “You go and compete and come back with a cow — that is the mind set in which they were interpreting this.”

As a result, wrestling is a source of income for hundreds of young people, with a potential to benefit even more in the fledging republic.

Ajak, 27, was born in Sudan at the start of Africa’s longest-running civil war. The conflict, which left more than two million people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, forced Ajak to flee his country when he was just five years old.

South Sudan is completely unchartered territory, is a country that is ready for the bright and brilliant innovators of the world.
–Peter Bier Ajak

He spent the following years moving from one refugee camp to another before finding his way to the United States at the age of 17. After completing high school, he went on to study at LaSalle University in Philadelphia before graduating from Harvard Kennedy School.

But Ajak never abandoned the dream of going back to his homeland to help its people.

In 2009, as an economist he took a job with the World Bank in South Sudan, where he helps shape policies for the implementation of the multi-donor trust fund and assists the government in setting up the first-ever development plan.

Despite having vast arable land and plenty of water, as well as being rich in oil reserves and minerals, South Sudan faces many challenges as it takes its first steps as a new country.

The land-locked nation lacks infrastructure to even refine or transport its oil while the majority of its people have little in the way of education and skills.

Ajak says initiatives like wrestling, which match existing talents, are desperately needed in the new nation.

“This is a period that we’ll need a lot of support,” he says. “We need to look at 21st-century means of doing development and apply them in South Sudan to attract investors in South Sudan — to organize our people, train them, to bring investors to use the skills that we have.

“South Sudan is completely uncharted territory, is a country that is ready for the bright and brilliant innovators of the world,” he adds.