Posts Tagged ‘sudanese refugees’

Kenya Refugee Camp Fills Again With Sudanese Refugees

Sudanese children play with a broken playground chair in Kakuma Refugee camp, which houses over 60,000 refugees in North western Kenya. (File Photo)
Mohammed Yusuf

May 14, 2012

KAKUMA, KENYA– Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya is filling up again with a new wave of refugees fleeing conflict in parts of Sudan and South Sudan.  According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more than 7,700 people have arrived in the camp so far this year, 75 percent of them from Sudan and South Sudan.The U.N. refugeeagencysays they receive an average of 100 new refugees at Kakuma per day, mainly from South Sudan.Refugees are citing tribal conflict, cattle rustling, indiscriminate killings and burning of houses in Jonglei state as reasons for fleeing.Amour Dau, 31, is a mother of six from Jonglei state. She says she fled her home for fear that violence might spread.There were some rebels, who came to our village, Dau says, and looted our belongings and burnt our houses, that’s why I came here to save my life. But I left behind my husband who is a government soldier.Another refugee, Achol Deng, 37, lost her husband and one child in the tribal conflict between her Dinka tribe and the rival Murle. She says her happiness will depend on the sort of assistance she will receive in the camp.

I am not happy at what happened back home, she says, people were being killed, houses burnt, I had to flee and seek asylum here. If I settle well in the camp and get good care I will be happy.

Kakuma camp was first opened in 1992. It has hosted thousands of refugees who fled the civil war in Sudan, which ended in 2005. In December of that year, UNHCR began voluntary repatriations of thousands of Sudanese from the camp.

Jeff Savage, UNHCR’s senior protection officer in Kakuma, says South Sudanese prefer coming to Kakuma camp than going to other camps in Ethiopia.

“Many of them are coming to Kakuma because either they are used to being refugees here, repatriated or they heard from other relatives,” said Savage. “We are wondering why they are going to Kakuma, which is much further than the camps in Ethiopia for instance.”

The 20-year camp is designed to hold up to 100,000 people.  As of this month, there were 94,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from 13 countries living there.

History repeats as war pushes Sudanese to Kenya 

Fri May 18, 2012 11:35am EDT

(Refiles to add TV, pix availability)

* Some 1,200 S.Sudanese refugees arrive each month

* Swampy conditions bad for health, U.N. says

* Refugee matters “not popular” among locals – U.N.

By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI, May 18 (AlertNet) – When Nyajany Kutil left Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp to return home to South Sudan in 2008, she did not imagine that war would force her back across the border again so soon.

But the exodus is repeating itself less than a year after South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan, dashing hopes of an end to five decades of war.

About 1,200 South Sudanese refugees are arriving in Kakuma camp each month, fleeing conflict and hunger in the world’s newest nation.

“When I came here in 2005, we had a lot of war,” Kutil, 20, said, seated on a wooden bench with her five-year-old daughter, waiting to register with Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs.

Kutil’s parents were killed in a night-time raid on their village, forcing the teenage girl to seek sanctuary in Kakuma, 120 km (75 miles) south of the border.

In 2008, she and her two young daughters were among the 50,000 South Sudanese refugees repatriated from Kenya, keen to rebuild their lives following a 2005 peace deal which led to a referendum on southern independence last July.

“When I returned to Sudan, I got the same war. So I am here. I don’t have any other place to go,” Kutil said.

Last month, her husband and four-year-old daughter were killed when raiders burned down their village in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei State.

“I don’t have any hope to return back to South Sudan. I would like to stay in Kenya because I do not see any war here,” she said.


Many of those who are coming back have been here before, said Guy Avognon, the United Nations (U.N.) refugee agency’s head of office in Kakuma. “It’s history repeating itself.”

Like Kutil, the majority of new arrivals come from Jonglei where 170,000 people have been affected by interethnic conflict since late 2011.

“The journey was very hard. We suffered. There was no food and no water. We were scared so we used to run at night,” said Nyibol Mariar, 40, sitting on a mat in the camp’s reception centre with her eight surviving children.

Her first born son and husband were killed in a night-time raid on their village in Jonglei.

Kakuma receives 100 new arrivals each day. With a population approaching 97,000, the camp is likely to reach its 100,000 capacity in the next few weeks.

“We have never reached that number even at the peak of the Sudan crisis prior to the referendum,” Avognon said.

“The only place to accommodate these new arrivals is swampy,” he added, warning that such unsanitary conditions were likely to make people sick.

Some 60 percent of new arrivals are from South Sudan, 16 percent from Sudan and the remainder from neighbouring states like Somalia and Ethiopia.

Most Sudanese are coming from South Kordofan on the oil-rich, disputed border between the two Sudans. Rebels who fought on the side of South Sudan during the 1983-2005 war are fighting the Khartoum government once again, causing widespread displacement and hunger.

The United Nations and the local community have identified a new site called Kalobeyey with capacity for 80,000 people, 25 km from Kakuma.

But Kenya’s ministry of internal security has yet to authorise the U.N. to start building an access road to the site.

“Refugee matters are not very popular here. People immediately see the security side of it. The government is very cautious,” Avognon said.

The U.N. predicts that Kakuma will receive between 30,000 and 50,000 new arrivals in the next 12 months, largely because of interethnic feuds.

“If Kakuma remains the main destination of new arrivals, I don’t see how we are going to cope in the next dry season,” said Avognon, adding that water shortages could lead to conflict with the host community in Kenya’s arid north-west. (AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit (Editing by James Macharia and Michael Roddy)

Voluntary Repatriation of Thousands of South Sudanese to Start Sunday
by Lisa Schlein, Voice of America (VOA)
GENEVA, Switzerland– The International Organization for Migration says the voluntary repatriation of up to 15,000 South Sudanese stranded in Kosti, White Nile State, is expected to get under way Sunday.  IOM is urgently appealing for $3 million to enable it to airlift the refugees from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.Sunday, the International Organization for Migration is planning to start moving people by bus to Khartoum from Kosti, which is 200 kilometers south of the Sudanese capital.  From there, it hopes to fly the first 900 refugees to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.Two weeks ago, the governor of the White Nile State gave the 12 to 15,000 South Sudanese and international agencies in Kosti a deadline of one week to leave the area.  The governor justified his order by claiming the refugees were a security and environmental risk.Following international pressure, the Sudanese government extended the deadline and agreed to facilitate IOM’s airlift plan.  IOM spokesman Jumbe Omari Jumbe says this decision comes as a big relief to the refugees and to the international agencies.

“It is not what we would hope for, would have wanted.” said Jumbe. “Of course, basically, the best way was to, still to use the barges back to South Sudan because that is cheaper and it ensures that everybody takes their things with them.  And also the other utility for that is that some of these passengers actually do not go all the way to Juba.  They want to stop-many, many stops along the White Nile River.  So, the barges would have been the best option.”

Clashes along the border between Sudan and South Sudan have raised tensions and brought the countries close to war.   Jumbe says the government in Khartoum suspended the use of the river barges because it thought South Sudan might use them for military purposes.

IOM reports it will need to hire some 25 buses and charter up to 100 flights to move the entire Kosti group.  It also will have to pay for medical screening and supplies, staff and escorts, food and overnight lodging for the returnees.  The entire voluntary repatriation operation is expected to take about one month to complete.

The Geneva-based agency says the two governments are providing travel documents for the returnees and landing clearances for the flights.

The refugees have been living in Sudan for a very long time and have accumulated massive amounts of goods, including, in some cases, farm and domestic animals.   The government of South Sudan will transport this excess luggage by truck.

Jumbe says the operation is extremely complex and expensive.  He says IOM has $2.5 million to carry out the operation, but urgently needs another $3 million.  He warns the consequences will be severe, if donors do not come up with the money .

“The concern is that the whole thing would be disrupted, making people really suffer more than what they have suffered already.” said Jumbe. “And, then there is the danger that even the agreement that we have now in hand with the government may be jeopardized because the government told us we have to move these people as soon as humanly possible.”

Jumbe says IOM will transport people from Juba close to points near their home villages.  He says IOM will give the South Sudanese basic non-food items and medical care, the World Food Program will distribute a three-month supply of food, and other agencies will provide additional essential services.

He says the United Nations is developing a full integration program to help these vulnerable people start a new life in a place that is foreign to many of them.
Airlift of South Sudanese begins from Khartoum
Fleeing aerial bombardment by the Sudanese air force, thousands of people have abandoned their homes and made make shift shelters between the rocks and boulders. (Reuters) By AFP An airlift of up to 15000 ethnic South Sudanese began on Monday from 
Sudan Seeks EAC’s Mediation
By Frank Kanyesigye & James Karuhanga, 14 May 2012 Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir has called on the East African Community (EAC) partner states to help resolve the ongoing dispute between his country and its neighbour, South Sudan.
Upper Nile Militia Defects to SPLA – Military
Juba — A militia in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State has joined the country’s national army, with Juba accusing it’s northern neighbour Sudan of previously backing the group. On Thursday South Sudan’s army (SPLA) said it had “evidence” the rebel group 

By Ian Timberlake (AFP) – 38 minutes ago KHARTOUM — An airlift of up to 15000 ethnic South Sudanese began on Monday from Khartoum, taking them back to a homeland some have never known. The first of dozens of planes chartered by the International 

Sudan Lawmakers Accept UN Resolution on South Sudan Conflict
Sudanese lawmakers accepted “with reservations” a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for Sudan and South Sudan to end hostilities, said Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, the head of parliament. The 15-member council unanimously passed a 
Sudan’s conflict with South Sudan cuts both ways
Bellingham Herald
“If you want to contribute 10 Sudanese pounds, send number 10, and if you want to contribute 50 pounds, send the number 50.” This would not appear to an optimum moment to get into a war with its newest neighbor, South Sudan. But pride on both sides of 
Kenya Refugee Camp Fills Again With Sudanese Refugees
Voice of America
(File Photo) KAKUMA, KENYA – Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya is filling up again with a new wave of refugees fleeing conflict in parts of Sudan and South Sudan. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more than 7700 people have 
Education Minister ‘Orders Closure’ of Private Institutions
Juba — South Sudan’s Minister of Higher Education has closed all privately owned learning institutions with “immediate effect” leaving thousands of students without a place to study. Higher Education Minister, Peter Adwok, said the decision was taken 
South Sudanese returnee from Khartoum rides in a bus as she arrives in South 
Reuters AlertNet
South Sudanese returnee from Khartoum rides in a bus as she arrives in South Sudan’s capital Juba May 14, 2012. The first batch of South Sudanese, who are among more than 12000 South Sudanese stuck in Kosti port in White Nile State for up to a year, 

Dear All,
Please find below a briefing note issued by UNHCR Communications and Public Information Service, Geneva, today. Also, attached is a table of contributions towards the UNHCR’s appeal for this emergency.
Kind regards,

Teresa Ongaro

Refugee portal:

Protection Cluster web site:
Facebook page:

Thousands of people have fled Sudans South Kordofan and Blue Nile states into neighboring countries in the last month, putting pressure on existing supplies and services.

In western Ethiopias Assosa region, nearly 2,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived from Blue Nile so far in May. The refugees cite night-time killings, abductions and the burning of their crops as reasons for fleeing. Many are arriving in Ethiopia with heavy luggage and livestock. They tell our staff that more people are on their way to an area already hosting nearly 35,000 mainly Sudanese refugees. UNHCR is making preparations for the possibility of a further influx.

In South Sudans Unity state, Yida settlement has received more than 3,200 arrivals from the Nuba Mountains so far this month. That’s an average of 550 refugees per day – nearly double the rate in April and six times that in March. The border settlement’s population now stands at nearly 30,000 refugees.

UNHCR has doubled its presence in Yida and accelerated the registration of new arrivals. We continue to see increasing numbers of refugees arriving in a malnourished state due to food shortages in parts of South Kordofan. All new arrivals are immediately registered and provided with food assistance including high-energy biscuits where needed. Partner agencies such as MSF-France and Samaritans Purse are treating malnourished children urgently and implementing therapeutic and supplemental feeding programs. The World Food Programme has sufficient full-rations of food for the entire camp population in Yida, including the new arrivals. It is also pre-positioning food stocks for the coming rainy season when road access to Yida will be cut off by flooding.

As the rainy season approaches, our staff have been distributing additional relief supplies such as plastic sheets and mosquito nets in the camp. New arrivals and vulnerable refugees such as unaccompanied children, the elderly and disabled continue to benefit from targeted distributions.

Although recent hostilities between South Sudan and Sudan did not directly affect refugee-hosting areas in Unity state, UNHCR remains deeply concerned for the refugees security due to the proximity of Yida to the disputed border area of Jaw.. Preserving the civilian character of refugee locations remains a core priority in all refugee-hosting areas. We therefore continue to advocate for the refugees in Yida to move to other settlements at a safer distance from the border.

Meanwhile refugees from Sudans Blue Nile state continue to cross the border into Upper Nile state, and are being relocated to safer areas further inland.  This week UNHCR completed individual registration and verification of refugees in Doro and Jammam settlements. The presence of 70,000 refugees was confirmed.

In Jammam, aid agencies are stepping up efforts to increase the water supply and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Our partners have been trucking and piping water to refugee locations and treating surface water where available.

To reduce demands on limited water sources, UNHCR this week started relocating the first of 15,000 refugees from Jammam to Doro I and II camps. We will also continue drilling efforts with partners to provide water in Jammam for the remaining refugees as well as local communities.

Efforts are underway to transport a much larger drilling rig than those already in place, to explore deeper water sources. Transporting such heavy duty equipment to this remote part of the country is a major logistical challenge.

In the meantime, medical and other humanitarian actors have drawn up contingency plans to respond to any eventual outbreak of disease. They have pre-positioned medical supplies and established treatment units.

In total, more than 100,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into South Sudan since the middle of last year. UNHCR has so far received 31 per cent of the US$145 million we need to care for the Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia. More contributions are urgently needed as we accelerate preparation for the camps before access is cut off by rains.


8May12 - Sudanese Situation - 2012Externalx.pdf 8May12 – Sudanese Situation – 2012Externalx.pdf
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Sgt. Peter Kuch is with the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

By Drew Brooks
Staff writer

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan – War shattered Peter Kuch’s family and forced him to grow up in the appalling poverty of refugee camps.

But he is willing to face another war – this time as a soldier serving the country that saved him.

Kuch is a 33-year-old sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. He’s on his first deployment, serving with the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion at Forward Operating Base Pasab in Afghanistan.

He learned about war 25 years ago.

That was when the sound of guns shook him from sleep in the middle of the night. His village in southern Sudan was under attack.

Kuch and his parents ran away, but they were separated in the chaos. That was the last time he saw them.

Kuch became one of the thousands of orphaned children of the Sudanese civil war – soon to be known to the world as the Lost Boys of Sudan. He joined thousands of boys like himself who trekked through war, disease and hunger to get to refugee camps. Uncounted numbers did not survive.

When Kuch ran away from his village, he found himself with a few cousins his age. They joined up with a larger group of refugees who walked for 28 days to Ethiopia.

“We couldn’t go back home,” Kuch said. “Our villages were completely burned down.”

Ethiopia provided an escape from the immediate danger of the war, but it was no haven.

Kuch had lost his family. At night, he dreamed of the attack on his village and cried.

“I was scared,” he said.

And, he said, “it wasn’t only me.”

Thousands of Sudanese refugees were crowded along the Ethiopian border in squalid conditions. Many, like Kuch, had been orphaned by the fighting.

Then, war erupted in Ethiopia, and refugee camps were attacked.

Kuch and the other Lost Boys were back in Sudan. But their homes were gone.

The same armies that had destroyed villages four years earlier now attacked the columns of refugees.

“In the day, we hid,” Kuch said. “When night came, we walked. Six to eight months and we walked all that time.”

The survivors made it to Kenya. That’s where Kuch would spend the next 10 years of his life.

And that’s where his salvation began.

In Kenya, United Nations workers helped Kuch get into a boarding school where he learned English. He also met his future wife, Evelynne, in the camp.

Even though life was better, Kuch had little reason to hope for a brighter future.

“There was never enough food; poor medical treatment,” he said. “We never knew what would happen tomorrow.”

It was not until he learned that the United Nations was working with the United States to take 4,500 of the Lost Boys to America that Kuch began to dream that his life had possibilities.

He applied to be part of the program. He went through a series of interviews and background checks. He waited.

Then he learned that he had been chosen.

“I was lucky,” he said.

Kuch arrived in America in the summer of 2001.

Just weeks later, he watched as the horrors of the 9/11 attacks unfolded on television.

“My country was at war for decades,” Kuch said. “And now war had followed me. I was heartbroken. I was so mad.”

Kuch wanted to join the Army then, but he wasn’t eligible.

He could, however, begin to build a life in his adopted home.

He lived in upstate New York, where he saw snow for the first time. He was able to go to college, studying hard between two jobs.

In 2003, Kuch learned that his parents were alive and living with other family members in what is now South Sudan. He has never been able to go back to see them, but he has been sending money to support them for years.

Six years after arriving in America, Kuch was working for a market research company. He and a friend talked about joining the military.

“It was a joke at first,” Kuch said. “Then I thought ‘That’s not a bad idea.’ ”

Kuch said he saw joining the Army as a way to pay back the country that had both rescued him and helped bring stability to his homeland.

“Sudan’s was a war that I thought would never end,” he said. “Peace came to Sudan and South Sudan because of America. I might not make a difference, but I thought serving would be giving back on behalf of myself and thousands of Sudanese.”

Kuch joined the Army in 2008. A year later, in a ceremony at Fort Bragg, he became a U.S. citizen.

“It was a big day for me,” he said. “This is a great country.”

Kuch said the horrors of his years as a refugee don’t haunt him any more.

He and Evelynne have started their American family, welcoming a son a little over a year ago.

In June, he will have served in the Army for four years.

And the deployment to Kandahar province in Afghanistan has brought his experiences with war full circle.

“I have been through a lot,” Kuch said. “I was eager to go. This is the reason I joined the military.”

The former Lost Boy has found his place – paying his debt of service to the country that gave him a home.

Israel Begins Deportation of South Sudanese Refugees
Real News Network
Suggest Context Links Here This month the Israeli government began a new program insentivizingSouth Sudanese refugees to return back to South Sudan or face deportation at the end of March. This decision came at the heels of a diplomatic visit by the ..

Israel threatens to deport South Sudanese

Associated PressBy DIAA HADID | Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Four years ago, the wives of the leaders of Israel and Egypt used their clout to help an African family reunite with a child who vanished in a hail of gunfire as they stole across the Egyptian border into Israel.

The child’s dramatic arrival in Israel drew attention to the plight of the tens of thousands of Africans who have come to Israel seeking prosperity and asylum in the Jewish state.

That family is among hundreds of South Sudanese Israel plans to expel this month.

With the establishment of an independent state of South Sudan in July, Israel is intent on repatriating them and the other 700 to 2,000 South Sudanese who live here. Those who leave voluntarily will be given plane tickets and $1,300.

So far, 50 people have applied to leave, said William Tall of the United Nation’s High Commission of Refugees. Tall said the U.N. has asked Israel to ensure South Sudanese can individually petition to stay in Israel.

An Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman wasn’t available to say if individuals could request asylum status.

Venus Mahroum was three years old when her mother lost her after Egyptian soldiers opened fire at a group of Sudanese trying to sneak into Israel across its desert frontier with Egypt’s Sinai desert.

Aliza Olmert, the wife of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, heard about the family’s plight and appealed to Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egypt’s since-deposed ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to find the child in Egypt and send her to Israel.

“We were afraid she was killed in the desert,” said her father Cassiase Mahroum, 32. “If Aliza Olmert had not stood beside us, we never would have found her.”

The Mahroums are among about 50,000 Africans who have entered Israel since 2005, seeking sanctuary from conflict and poverty in the prosperous Jewish state. Most are from wartorn Sudan and impoverished Eritrea.

The country’s Jewish majority is divided over what to do with them. Some believe Israel, which emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, must offer refuge, and challenge the government’s sweeping description of most of them as economic migrants and not asylum seekers.

Others say they have become an unsustainable burden — some 17,000 entered in 2011 alone — straining social services and diluting the Jewish character of this country of 7.7 million.

Worried about the mounting flow of migrants, as well as possible infiltration by militants, Israel is racing to complete a 230-kilometer (150-mile) fence along its border with Egypt. The government is also preparing to build a detention center that will hold up to 11,000 migrants, to open in coming months.

Mahroum said he and his wife Kikongo, 28, did not set their sights on Israel when they fled war and hardship in their hometown of Bahr al-Ghazal to Egypt in 1999. After Egyptian security forces killed more than 20 Sudanese while quelling a protest in Cairo in 2005, thousands of Africans in Egypt, including the Mahroums, paid Bedouin tribesmen to escort them through the mountainous Sinai desert into Israel.

Bedouins placed Mahroum with one group, Kikongo and Venus with another. Mahruom crossed safely into Israel in August 2007. Kikongo arrived two days later, telling him Egyptian forces opened fire on their group, a regular occurrence in the Sinai. A man carrying Venus was shot and wounded. Soldiers seized him and Venus, Mahroum said.

Aliza Olmert said she contacted the Mubaraks directly. Within hours, the girl was found alive in the Sinai town of el-Arish.

“I am happy that I was able to help save Venus’ life,” Olmert told The Associated Press in an email.

Fluent in Hebrew, Venus attends the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel Aviv, a mixed-nationality school that enjoyed a flurry of attention after a documentary about it, “Strangers No More,” won an Academy Award in 2011.

Mahroum and other South Sudanese say their newly formed country remains unstable and many areas are still embroiled in war. Tribal infighting kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people a year.

Their advocates say that while Israel has the right to demand they leave, they should delay their decision until the situation in South Sudan stabilizes.

Venus says she doesn’t understand why her parents have told her to prepare to return to South Sudan.

“I told them I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I’m scared, I don’t want to go back.”

Israel to deport South Sudanese
By IANS, Jerusalem : Israel will begin deporting thousands of South Sudan nationals from April following rising distress over the inflow of African refugees and labour migrants through its western border with Egypt. “They (the South Sudanese slated for 
Carter Center: S. Sudan election law should have term limits for president 
Sudan Tribune
March 19, 2012 (JUBA) – The US-based Carter Center has advised South Sudan lawmakers to ensure that term limits, particularly for the president and state governors are included within the country’s national elections law, currently in its final review 
New Church, School and Clinic Opened in Troubled Jonglei
Bor — At the opening of a church, school and a clinic built by a local businessman on Sunday the bishop of Bor diocese said development programs in villages of South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei State shows the potential the young country has to transform 
South Sudan: New Threat Looms Over Refugees
Hundreds of African refugees and Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night under the banner ‘It’s dangerous in South Sudan‘ to protest the imminent expulsion of 700 Sudanese asylum seekers, including children. A small group of counter-protesters 

Research and Markets: Sudan and South Sudan Power Report Q2 2012: Power Sector
A diversified approach to power infrastructure development could help Sudan extend the availability of energy to rural and peripheral regions. Sudan and South Sudan Power Report provides industry professionals and strategists, corporate analysts, 

South Sudan Closes Leper Colony To Develop Land
Voice of America
March 16, 2012 South Sudan Closes Leper Colony To Develop Land Hannah McNeish | Juba,South Sudan South Sudan has shut down a leper colony outside Juba, long a refuge for the sick and vulnerable who are now finding themselves squeezed out of a booming 

Jany Deng was one of the first Lost Boys to relocate to the Phoenix area.

Jany Deng was one of the first Lost Boys to relocate to the Phoenix area.

By Dianna M. Náñez – Jan. 5, 2012

Refugees shift focus to rebuilding S. Sudan

For years now, the Arizona Lost Boys Center in Phoenix has been a home base for refugees who fled Sudan for the U.S. to escape their country’s civil war.

This week, in honor of their country’s struggle to secure hard-fought independence, the center announced it is changing its name and its mission.

The Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development will offer training and a fellowship in South Sudan where the men can use their education and skills to help rebuild their home country.

On Wednesday, about a dozen Lost Boys celebrated their birthday at a community celebration hosted by Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore.

Many of the Sudanese refugees do not know their exact birthdays because records were destroyed or lost in the war. So they mark the occasion at a group celebration.

Sitting with Valley residents who came to offer well wishes, a group of about a dozen men discussed their home country’s future, and shared dreams for their own futures.

With South Sudan in the midst of a struggle to secure its independence, the Lost Boys explained their desire to return home to help rebuild.

It’s the right way to pay forward the kindness and opportunities they’ve received in the U.S., said Jany Deng, the center’s program manager and one of the first Lost Boys to relocate in Phoenix with his brother in the mid-1990s.

It’s the right way to help the family they left behind, John Kok said.

It’s the right way to honor their loved ones who died, Bol Bulabek added.

To aid in that desire, center officials announced at the party that the board has voted to change the center’s name and mission.

As many as 27,000 “Lost Boys,” a nickname given to the displaced children, fled their villages to escape a war that began in 1983 and lasted more than 20 years.

With about 600 Lost Boys living in Arizona, the state has the nation’s largest concentration of such refugees.

The boys who turned to the community center for support and fellowship since it opened in 2003 have grown into men.

The Lost Boys Center for Leadership Development will focus on bringing together the global community of Sudanese refugees who want to return to their country to support democracy and opportunity in South Sudan.

The center has started fundraising to form a leadership-training program that will include a service fellowship in Sudan.

“These are men who value education,” said center spokeswoman Kadi Tierney. “They’ve survived so much. They all have different skills to offer.”

About eight years ago, Tierney’s family adopted Koor Garang, an Arizona Lost Boy. Garang is studying to be a nurse at the University of Arizona.

Garang and Tierney’s mother, Carol, have formed a South Sudan non-profit, Ubuntu, that provides mosquito netting and education for children.

Garang dreams of staffing Unbuntu full time when he graduates. At Wednesday’s party other Lost Boys talked about fulfilling their dreams.

Kok, a nursing student, envisions returning to Sudan to build a hospital.

“We have two homes,” he said. “America is our home. Sudan — our hearts are there.”

Anthony Kuol, 29, talked about his escape from Sudan. He was 6 or 7 years old, got separated from his parents and later was captured by a soldier. He escaped and walked nearly 1,000 miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Last year, he visited Sudan and was reunited with family members he thought had died. Making the trek to his home village he came upon children living on the streets.

When he finishes school, Kuol said he will return to Sudan.

“I want to give back what America has given us — that is love,” he said.

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