Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering Dr. John Garang de Mabior

ACDA President Peter Magai Bul writes:

Dr. Garang's Final Words to Over Twelve Thousand Sudanese Lost Boys & Girls in America
Members of Nyuak Community (of which the Ayual Community belongs) in Sudan and all over the world will be commemorating and reflecting on Dr. John Garang’s life today. Dr. John Garang, who was the first Vice President of the Republic of Sudan, first president of South Sudan, and Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLA/M, perished in a helicopter crash on the 30th of July in 2005. Garang, who was born in 1945 in Wangulei, found in Twic East County of Jongulei state in Southern Sudan, was special to the Sudanese Lost Boys & and Girls and so were we to him. Although he used to regularly visit us in Ethiopia during the 80s and 90s, Garang’s final visit with us was in Phoenix, AZ in 2004 at the 1st National Conference & Reunion. More than 12,000 Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls and American friends attended this event. Dr. John Garang spoke in a tone I never heard in his past speeches—as if he knew that his life and work of liberating oppressed Sudanese were coming to an end. He congratulated and honored our successes and accomplishments and he informed, advised, educated, encouraged, and warned Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls about the unfinished jobs that he believed his US Ambassadors (Lost Boys and Girls) are capable of pursuing. Sudan’s Ambassador to Japan, Setepano Wondu, has shared Dr. John Garang’s full speech here: "Viva John Garang"

Mayor Phil Gordon's Message to the Same Twelve Thousand Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls
At the 1st National Conference & Reunion, Phil Gordon, Mayor for the City of Phoenix, generosity welcomed thousands of the Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls, including Sudanese officials led by late Dr. John Garang. Mayor Gordon shared this message with us for years ago:

“….Even before you have completed the task of organizing yourselves nationally, you have the eyes of the world upon you at this very gathering. I am confident in your ability to come together in a spirit of unity towards a greater good – bringing the world’s awareness to the plight of the desperate people in South Sudan. I have great faith that you will conduct your business as responsible leaders, rising above factional and political differences. As you speak, Phoenix will hear and learn about the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, the children of Sudan’s war-torn countryside. Millions of your people, including children, have lost their lives. Millions of your people have no voice, except through you. Millions of your people have no future, except through you. The despair and tragedy spans every tribe, every religion, every language, and every culture found in your vast land. But they still hold out hope for a day where they will again know the security and comfort of their family’s love, the prosperity of a country no longer at war, and peace in their homeland. Such cherished dreams will require all of the love, work, faith, trust and compassion we can assemble as allies and friends across the world. If you master this spirit of unity at your first national conference over these next three days, you will truly be maturing into the leaders deeply needed by your country. Each one of you has my respect and admiration for enduring a life that no child should ever face, for recognizing that the road ahead is still long, filled with both hardship and unexpected joy, self-discipline and the barest glimpse of cherished dreams”

When We Lost Him

Video: "Dr. John Garang Memory Day"

A few days after my return from the 1st National Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls Conference & Reunion in Phoenix, AZ, many of the Chicago’s Lost Boys and their American friends began discussing Dr. John Garang’s safely and future of Sudan should he sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). On a Thursday night at a gathering at St. Paul's By-The-Lake Episcopal Church Sylvester Bona and Karen called me to their table to answer some of the questions that were most concerning. Why would Dr. John Garang sign the CPA if Southern Sudan’s oil and other resource would be shared 50-50 between the North and South? Would it be safe for Dr. John Garang to go to Khartoum to sign the agreement? I simply told them it would be okay for the South to have a share of 50% instead of the 0% they have been getting since the discovery of oil in Sudan, perhaps to even, once again, prepare their army for a third war if the CPA is later violated again. As for Garang’s safety, I told them Dr. John Garang doesn’t favor his life more than the lives of 2.5 millions Sudanese who died during the 22 years of sacrifice. Garang knew Sudanese heroes would continue sacrificing, should something take his life.

These same issues came up often and we discussed them at length. About 11 months later, many of us were speechless as we learned about Garang’s death. It was at 9pm on the day of Garang's death that one of the Sudanese Lost Boys, Peter Barach Kuany from Omaha, Nebraska, called me at work and asked, “Magai, have you heard anything from Sudan today?”

I replied, “No.”

“I am not sure, but something bad happened,” Peter said.

I asked Peter to hang up the phone and told him that I will go and check the internet before I call him back. I began to wonder whether Garang has been assassinated. I rushed to the internet and Garang’s death everywhere in the news. Many Lost Boys across the US and those in Africa began calling me, but I was speechless. Many of the Lost Boys, including my roommates, didn't show up at the work the following days. No one was talking or eating. My Kenyan friend, Simon Ogeto, who writes for the Mashariki News, called me and asked if I had any thoughts for the Sudanese Community and their American friends. I told him that I wasn’t ready for a phone interview and preferred to send him a brief email note, which he published and shared with everyone: "Sudan's Vice President Garang dies in copter crash; peace deal at risk."

Fulfilling Dr. John Garang's Dream and Vision

Dr. John Garang has taught us much and we have so much to remember about him and his leadership. With the educational opportunities we are providing to children in Sudanese villages, I believe that Sudan, in Garang’s own words, will never be the same again. Sudan Ambassador to Japan, Setepano Wondu has much more on Dr. John Garang’s dreams, vision, and work as you can read in her series of articles at Sudan Tribune: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sudanese Music & Dance Festival 2008

ACDA president Peter Magai Bul writes:

Dear friends,

Perhaps, some of you were at the Millennium Park's Sudanese Music & Dance Festival 2008, but here is Southern Sudan's Kennedy performing Thursday, July 10:

The concert just ended with a special after party at the Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant Sunday night. Thanks to those who attended the concert!

Friday, July 11, 2008

2008 Benefit Dinner

Last Saturday’s benefit dinner was a great opportunity for fellowship and fundraising. Several of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” talked about their experience during the war in Sudan, in Kakuma Refugee Camp, and adjusting to life in America. John Maluk Yak, Vice President of ACDA read one of his poems-in-progress:

Memory of our journey

War, genocide, torture, persecution
War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would feed on trees!
Hunger! O boy we were Hungry!

War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would walk the desert!
Long desert! Long walk! O boy we were thirsty!

War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would swim the rivers!
Crocodiles! O boy we were drowning!

War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would walk over a thousands miles!
Long way long walk! O boy O our feet!

War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would suffer in the bush, suffer hunger, suffer thirst,
suffer disease, suffer homesickness in refugee camps, in Ethiopia, Kenya
Africa my continent…..

War, separation, long walk

When we left our country, running for life
we didn’t know we would keep moving,
moving across the world …escaping war, genocide, torture, persecution

When we came to America,
We were called Lost Boys, “Lost Boys” of Sudan,
Sudan… “Lost Boys” of Sudan….

War, separation, long walk

John went on to talk about his experience in High School in the US and how difficulties with the language caused problems:

Sometimes I was confused and said to some boys, “hi, you look beautiful”! They were so mad and were about to beat me! They responded, “we are not girls, we are boys, my friend”, and I apologized to them.

The question came afterward, “John, do you like girls?” Yes, I love them my friends. Why? They laughed and said, “Don't call us beautiful, ok? Here in America, we do not call boys beautiful. We only call girls beautiful!”

In addition to John, David Biar Gak, Jacob Bol Bul, Peter Magai Bul, and Deng Akoi Jurkuch spoke. Senator Jacqueline Collins and Reverend Cedric L. McCay were in attendance to offer a message of support. ACDA is grateful to the Faith Community of Saint Sabina and Reverend Michael Louis Pfleger for opening their doors for this benefit dinner.

The dinner itself was a feast of traditional Sudanese food. Delicious!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

War Crimes

The New York Times reports on the “increasing likelihood” that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, will ask judges for an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir for the war crimes in Darfur:

The indictment of a sitting head of state in a war-torn country would not be unprecedented: Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia were both charged by international war crimes courts while in office.

But the complexity and fragility of Sudan’s multiple conflicts have led many diplomats, analysts and aid workers to worry that the Sudanese government could lash out at the prosecutor’s move by expelling Western diplomats and relief workers who provide aid to millions of people displaced by the fighting, provoking a vast crisis and shutting the door to vital diplomatic efforts to bring lasting peace.

The dueling objectives have exposed a growing tension: between justice and peace, that is, between the prosecution of war criminals and the compromises of diplomacy.

Tensions between the North and South are at an all time high since the conflict in May over oil-rich Abyei, which displaced 50,000 people. Some argue this move against the president can make an already shaky situation much worse. Other analysts disagree, saying this increased pressure could change the government’s behavior. A precarious situation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Southern Sudan’s Girls’ Education Day

Monday, 7 July was the annual Girls’ Education Day in Southern Sudan, an opportunity to celebrate achievements and target new initiatives in increasing the enrollment of girls in school. Girls’ Education Day is part of a larger campaign launched by the Government of Southern Sudan and UNICEF in 2006 to rebuild Southern Sudan’s education system. Enrollment of girls has jumped from 14% of total students in 2005 to 34% today.

ACDA is proud to join in this celebration. Our school, Pongborong Primary School, currently serves 800 students, about half of which are girls. We’re very proud of these numbers, which are unusual for Southern Sudan, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Many girls have to stay home to help with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching water from one of only four boreholes that serve a population of over 40,000. We’re also working to help parents and families understand the importance of girls’ education. Developments in water availability, transportation, and community education are vital to the success of retaining and increasing the numbers of female students.

We’ll keep you posted on our efforts. In the meantime, check out photos from Maketh Bul’s trip to Pongborong Primary School in December of 2006.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sudan Divestment

During Saturday's benefit dinner, Illinois Senator Jacqueline Collins voiced her support for the Lost Boys of Sudan and the work they're doing in Southern Sudan and the US. Senator Collins has been a strong voice for Sudan; one of her major legislative accomplishments is Illinois' Sudan Divestment Act to End Atrocities and terrorism in Sudan. At the benefit dinner, she discussed the importance of divestment and our responsibility to hold our government, our community leaders, and ourselves accountable.

To divest in Sudan is to withdrawal investments that benefit the Government of Sudan. Investing in companies affiliated with Sudan's government helps to supply the military with weapons and ammunition that fuel the atrocities taking place in Darfur. By divesting, we put pressure on the government to take responsibility for these human rights violations. A recent study found that "70 percent of oil-related revenue generated in Sudan goes toward military expenditures." (Full article: "Sudan Divestment Campaigns Gain Momentum.") While this divestment is growing, Senator Collins pointed out that many large companies and organizations, including the University of Chicago, still refuse to do so.

The Genocide Intervention Network has created the Sudan Divestment Task Force to support divestment efforts. Their site has great resources for individuals and businesses looking into divestment, including a tool you can use to screen your own mutual funds for involvement in Sudan.

More on the benefit dinner, including pictures, coming soon.