One roof closer to completing this building as an offering to hope and development in South Sudan.
In October of 2015, the roof of the only permanent structure for miles was installed in Jalle Payam. We want to take a moment to celebrate that! And at the same time, we want to take many moments to remember the lives lost in the October 2015 Jalle cattle raid. With these two events, We enter into the joy-pain paradox that many in South Sudan live with on a daily basis. The joy of the roof is accompanied by the sorrow of loss for Jalle Payam.
This roof has been a long time coming and is no small accomplishment. We thought that this roof would be on the structure a few years ago. We thought the building would be finished in the year 2012. But none of us could see into the future to know what we would be up against. We didn’t know that our first contractor would disappear with the crane needed to erect the steel frame. We didn’t know that South Sudan would erupt into another civil war at the end of 2013. And we didn’t know that our original roof panels would be lost in the Dec 2013 Bor Town massacre.
The World Bank’s annual Doing Business 2016 Report lists South Sudan as the third hardest nation in the world for conducting business (ranked 187 out of 189). Even though, we press on together with Jalle. In early 2015, teachers and students began holding classes under the red frame as an act of faith that this school would one day be complete. After almost two years of a construction stand still, Rebuild South Sudan and Jalle community members rallied once more to put a roof over teachers and students alike. In October 2015 roofing supplies, workers, and a generator were on site, and a roof went up. Now these teachers and students have a shield from sun and rain, and we’re one big step closer to completing this offering to development in South Sudan.
For Jalle, the joyful reality of the roof, a sign of future stability, is set in a story of ongoing trauma. On October 23, 2015 , in the middle of the roof installation and on the the other side of the large village of Jalle, a cattle raid occurred. When all was said and done, thirty Jalle lives were lost, including some of Michael Kuany’s family members and new friends of the Rebuild South Sudan Teacher Training team. We’ve been grieving with Jalle. We sent over some financial support to help with the costs of the group funeral and hospital bills for those wounded survivors.
Hope in South Sudan is hard to come by these days. In a land where death, loss and destruction are epidemic, this building is more than a school. It stands as a symbol of society, that one day South Sudan will be rebuilt, that war will not wage on without end. For the people of Jalle, the building stands as a monument of hope; realistically, we know that this is the long-haul kind of hope.
When asked why he does this work given just how challenging it is, Michael Kuany, Founder and CEO, responded,
“You don’t do what is easy if you want to grow…. I know that it is a difficult work and it’s not easy, but [South Sudan] is where my heart belong. I want to make a difference. Similar thing happened to others and to me….
It can bring you to the point where you want to give up, but giving up is not a solution, it is a failure. To the people who are looking at you as a change agent, to lead them out of what they’re going through… If you succeed you could be really strong. And it could actually prepare you for something bigger.”
Thank you to all our supporters for helping us get this far and for participating in hope. The walls are the next step on this project. Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the school as a way to continue on the journey with the people of South Sudan.
Michael Kuany, founder of the nonprofit Rebuild South Sudan (rebuildsouthsudan.org) and one of the “Lost Boys” of South Sudan, came to the US in 2001 after a childhood spent in refugee camps. He and thousands of other children fled a bloody civil war in 1985. Since arriving in the States in 2001, he has received a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation, gaining skills and vision in paradigms of restorative justice and reconciliation.
Inspired by his own experience of the importance of education to the children he grew up with in refugee camps, Michael sees education as an essential foundation for a peaceful future for his struggling country. He founded the nonprofit Rebuild South Sudan in 2007 to build a school in his home village and promote peace.
Michael is just arriving from South Sudan, where ongoing violence and the threat of return to civil war afflicts a traumatized people. Come meet him and hear about his vision for peace THIS SUNDAY, April 27, 9:15 – 10:15 a.m. Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton Ave., San Mateo, CA.
Contact Katie@rebuildsouthsudan.org for more info.
Dear friends and family,
Thank you for waiting patiently to hear from me about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. Although the war has not come to an end, I do have some good news to share with you.
The two towns of Bor and Bentiu that had been captured by the rebels have been recaptured by the government forces this past weekend. Thousands of bodies are lying on the streets, most of whom are women and children.
Bor city has been burned down to ashes and the people have attempted to go back are suffocated by the smells. Jalle community back in South Sudan are raising humanitarian support to help the victims of war and thanks to Rebuild South Sudan for donating $1,000 toward that cost. People are without food, cloth, shelter and clean drinking water. If you want to donate please us know and your donation will be directed to those in need.
Our school has not been affected by the conflict but some of the building materials we stored in Bor are not yet known whether they have been burnt as the city is now in ashes. I am planning on going back to south Sudan on February 2, 2014 so please pray for me and for the country.
Thank you for your continued support.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. I hope this message finds you well during this joyous time as we celebrate the birth of our lord Jesus Christ and a New Year. Christmas is that time of the year where people give thanks to the Lord and celebrate, but it is unfortunate to report that the people of the Republic of South Sudan are mourning the death of their loves one due to the recent military conflict in the country.
The conflict started between the president and his former vice president who had been secretly supporting rebels in the country. The defector has made himself the leader of the rebels and he is killing civilians. He has capture my home town of Bor and he is killing innocent people including people who run to the UN compound to take refuge and protection.
I have lost contact with my own mother who went to South Sudan to attend the second funeral for my late father who passed away in May 2013. I am very worried for her safety as the rebels are hunting to kill those who are hiding in the bushes. People of South Sudan had suffered enough and I pray the Lord will bring them peace.
I would like to thanks all of you for your courageous efforts in helping bring peace through education to the people of South Sudan. Your loves are being felt and appreciated. My special welcome to our new Board members. You are part of the change that South Sudan need at this critical time in history. I am planning on writing an article about the ongoing crisis in the country. Thank you once again to all our donors and board members for making the dream of this organization a reality.
Michael A. Kuany!
As of this weekend, Michael Kuany has relocated back to his home country in South Sudan. While we are so sad to see him go, we are grateful for the opportunities which await him, our organization, and his country because of his physical presence on South Sudanese soil.
When Michael first moved to the US in 2001, he stayed with a community in Wisconsin. “In South Sudan, people are one big family. In the US, it’s a little bit different,” and it took him awhile to make connections. Though the communities are not necessarily structured the same as the ones back home in Sudan, he found people who shared the same basic beliefs of working together for the greater good. Making deep connections in Wisconsin and also with the Rebuild South Sudan team, Michael says he has found another family who will always represent his second home in the US.
While living in America, Michael has fulfilled his dream of getting an education (his GED, Bachelors in International Studies and Political Science, as well as a Masters in International Development and Restorative Justice) and in doing so he says that he will be able to take the knowledge he has learned and be able to share it with his nation.
Michael has loved living in a country where anything is possible. His seemingly impossible idea of building a school in South Sudan was inspiring to many and supported by all. “I don’t think I met anyone who actually questioned why or how I was going to build the school. I didn’t have the money, it was simply an idea, but people responded positively by saying ‘yes, I want to help you.’”
As Michael travels back to South Sudan to make it his permanent home since the first time he left in the 1990s, he is also temporarily being separated from his family. His wife, Deborah, and baby daughter, Ayak, are currently living in Australia with family while Deborah gets a Masters degree in Business. The main thing to sustain them through this time apart is their shared goal of education and a hope to extend their knowledge to help rebuild the nation of South Sudan. Once Deborah is finished with school she plans to move to South Sudan with Ayak and unite as a family.
Michael is returning to South Sudan because he can be an effective agent of change for his country. He is also moving to help further our school and peace building efforts through Rebuild South Sudan. Michael plans to live in Juba and travel back and forth to Bor and Jalle to help with the project. “Coordination has been difficult to do from a far and we’ve had ups and downs in coordination from a long distance. I think my presence on the ground will help us to move things quicker. I will still have challenges… we will always have challenges. But I think my presence on site will be very helpful for logistics, communication with the community, where to find the building materials, and logistics.” Michael’s life long mission is to teach people that only through education people are given an opportunity to change their country’s future. With education, people can learn to support themselves and the future generations. “I am building this school for those children who had no hope … I see this school as an opportunity for that hope to be restored.”
We are honored for his continued leadership for our team and cannot wait to share with you more about how our shared future will grow.
Below is a letter Michael recently sent out to many of his contacts. He and Deborah have experienced quite the year of transition with the birth of their baby Ayak, Deborah’s return to Austrailia to get an MBA and Michael’s upcoming and permeant move to South Sudan. Please read below for his perspective on the status of the school and his family:
Jalle School Project
Let me begin with the school project as many of you would like to know the progress of the school building and how it has been going. The skyline of the Jalle School has changed and we are very thankful to you for making it a reality! It has taken us several trips to the site before we could see the building standing tall above our heads.
I have to admit the long distant coordination has been very challenging. South Sudan has two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. Once the dry is missed, building has to wait until the next dry season. Our former executive director, Blake Clark, had traveled to South Sudan three times for the purpose to plan, oversee and document the project. All of his trips have been met with seasonal challenges mainly heavy rainfalls which make it impossible to build. As you know we are a group of volunteers, we could not commit 100% of our time to the project because we have bills to pay and families to care for. Lack of resources has some contribution to the interruptions of construction. Through the process of this journey, we have met incredible people who want to help and make difference in people’s lives. In the mid of 2012, I was contacted by a man from North Carolina who is a civil engineer by profession wanting to help. He paid his own way to South Sudan in March of 2013 to check on how the building was built. Many of you have invested time and money in this project and we cannot thank you enough for your unwavering support.
Here is the visual view of the erected building with the community elders and future students standing proud in front of it. (Click here for our most recent project update)
Viability of any organization or institution is based on effective leadership. Rebuild Sudan is so fortunate to have effective board under the leadership of Jill Sornson Kurtz whom I met couple years ago in San Francisco. Upon joining this organization Jill work tire sly with the board members to provide leadership needed for the success of our project. She went to South Sudan in 2009 as part of the design team. She travelled again in April of 2013 with her father Paul Sornson to document the project, to meet with community leaders and the future students of our school. Her report about the trip can found on our website at www.rebuildsouthsudan.org.
I am also pleased to share our project has won an International Design Award (SEED Award) and Jill Kurtz and myself were named as Advocates on the top 100 list of Global Public Interest Designers. We were able to present the project at the University of Minnesota for over 300 people. Our presentation was a crowd favorite and many were brought to tears not only by my story, but by the vision and hope of what we are trying to accomplish.
Birth of Ayak Kuany
Regardless of the difficulty of this work, my wife Deborah and I are grateful for the gift of life, the birth of our beloved daughter Ayak Kuany. She was born on January 28, 2013 and I can’t believe she is already five months old. Time flies without knowing it. We are grateful to all of our family and friends for being supportive of us. We could not wish for better family and friends than you. As we enjoy holding Ayak, we are attaching her first picture of her sitting up.
Move to South Sudan
In the last several months, Deborah and I have been contemplating where we want to be and how we can better serve in the rebuilding of South Sudan. We painfully made a decision to move back to South Sudan where I will move there first to find a job and set up our house without Deborah and Ayak. At the beginning of June, Deborah and Ayak went to Australia and they are staying with my older sister while I am in the process to go to South Sudan in mid-August 2013. It is painful to be apart from them but know this separation is only temporary.
My presence on the ground in South Sudan will help Rebuild South Sudan in the coordination process overseeing, and buying of building materials. I am hoping to be joined by my family once I am settled, meaning when I have a place for them to stay. I will be coming to the United States once a year and I will be updating our team in the United States so that you are informed of our activities on the ground. Rebuild South Sudan has been solely reliant on resources in the United States so once I am there I will start to look for grants that are available for local organizations like ours in South Sudan.
South Sudan 2nd anniversary
On July 9, 2013, the Republic of South Sudan marked her 2nd anniversary as an independence state from the Republic of Sudan. This is a great sign of working together. This independence did not come because South Sudanese won their freedom through war, this came about when the world joined their efforts together especially the United States and said enough had happened to these people and it is time for peace. There are many challenges facing the young nation, but I am hopeful these challenges can be overcome.
Before my departure for South Sudan, I am hoping to raise $10,000 to cover the roofing cost so that school can become operational in 2014. I ask you once again to consider financially contribution to Rebuild South Sudan so that we can finish the school we started together. We cannot reach our goal of this project without your support. Your donation of $500, $250, $100 or $50 to the Jalle school will change the lives of thousands children and their future families in South Sudan.
Thank you in advance for helping Rebuild South Sudan fulfills its mission: to build a foundation for returning refugees, education the future generation, and promote peace for a generation that has known only war. Thank you also for making my childhood dream becomes a reality.
Michael A. Kuany, Founder & President
We’re a bit behind in sharing this good news, but better late than never. Rebuild South Sudan Founder Michael Kuany and Board President, Jill Sornson Kurtz were named by Public Interest Design’s 100 Global design list. Broken down into categories of promotors, facilitators, makers, policy makers, connectors, ambassadors, educators, visualizers, funders and organizers, this Autodesk sponsored project named Michael and Jill as Public Interset Design GlobalAmbassadors for their work with Rebuild South Sudan. Bill and Melinda Gates as well as Prince Charles and Former President Jimmy Carter are on there as well… which is probably as close to them as we’ll ever get ;]
See the full info graphic below or for the best online viewing, see http://pid100.publicinterestdesign.org/
Rebuild Sudan was honored not only to be a SEED Award Recipient, present our project at the University of Minnesota College of Design’s first ever Public Interest Design Week, but to be welcomed with open arms into the public interest design community. We literally brought people to tears with Michael’s story and our organization’s hope for the future. Such a great reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing and how grateful we are for the support of our donors, team, and new friends! We are grateful for the opportunity and connections the weekend provided that will no doubt further our cause into the future.
You can download our presentation materials as follows:
Structures for Inclusion Conference (15 min presentation)
Public Interest Design Institute Presentation (1.5 hr presentation)
Brief History of Lost Boys (5 min video)
Jill Kurtz + Michael Kuany presenting on the international design panel
Jill fielding questions from the audience
Michael proudly holding our SEED Award
Jill Kurtz (Ayak Kuany), Marianne Nepsund, Deborah Nyapoo Akon, Michael Kuany, Blake Clark together for the weekend to present and celebrate our project
Michael + Blake in deep philosophical discussions while Jill refused to share Ayak
Rebuild Sudan Girl talk
“Lost Boy” looking forward
The sound of bombs echoed through the Sudanese town of Jalle. Seven-year-old Michael Kuany and his male playmates watched from a distance as the Northern Sudanese army destroyed their village. That was 20 years ago. North Sudan is predominantly Arab and Muslim, while south Sudan is mainly Black African and Christian. Michael now looks forward to a new future in providing hope for the broken Southern Sudanese.
“When the government of Sudan unexpectedly attacked my village,” he reminisces, “I was afraid to go back to where my family was and I went in an unknown direction, which later became Ethiopia. I didn’t know where I was going, but my navigator creator, (God) guided me in my entire flight. I walked for a thousand miles from my home country to Ethiopia where thousands of other children from other villages met up with me. I saw many of them killed by the Islamic forces. Ethiopia became my home for four years…life was really hard.” Later he was forced to flee Ethiopia or the crocodile-infested Gilo river. Michael and the other Lost Boys fled on to Kenya where other troubles awaited them: little food, only Aspirin for medical assistance and terrorizing gangs.
Through it all the lost boys saying “education is our mothers and fathers” was their mission. Whenever they saw a UN worker in the Kenyan camp, they would ask to learn a letter. Then at the end of they day, they would share what they learned. Michael remembers vividly, “For example, I would show him A, and he would show me Z.
Unfortunately, of the estimated 30,000 that fled Sudan, only about 7.000 made it to Kenya. Michael and approximately 4,000 others immigrated to the United States in 2001.
When he went back to Sudan in 2007, he discovered that “where there were once thousands of huts, there were now only a few scattered buildings. The trees I had remembered were gone. The land was dry and empty. People were few, as most have not yet returned from the refugee camps. Recent floods have also kept people from returning to their homeland. I did not recognize my home. There was nothing I brought back to the United Stat
God’s would guide Michael, as he traveled the treacherous road to freedom. Brought safely through deserts, jungles, crocodiles, armies and marauding gangs, he now lives at Church of the Sojourners with Dave and Debbie Gish.
His organization Rebuild South Sudan aims for change. According to the organization’s website, www.rebuildsouthsudan.org, “A 21-year civil war between north and south Sudan left southern Sudan economically and socially impoverished, [so] today the people of Jalle have no clinics, schools, or clean water systems. His solution to the problem? “To help the [orphaned] children of war. Together we can make a difference in people’s lives. Every child deserves these basic needs. Let’s join hands and help now.” Rebuild South Sudan is working to rebuild schools, and change the terrible situation in Sudan. To find out more information, or to donate, go to www.rebuildsouthsudan.org.
Written by Jordan Green, Published in Helium on 11 October 2009.
The horrors still haunt him: the gunfire that ripped his tiny village apart, the terrified screams of neighbors and friends as their homes were set ablaze, the 2,000-mile walk he and other young boys were forced to take to a refugee camp in Kenya, all the while fearing soldiers would slice him limb from limb.
Since the day soldiers attacked his southern Sudan village and Michael Ayuen de Kuany became a 7-year-old refugee, he has struggled not only to survive but also to thrive. Now he hopes his dream of a new school in theRepublic of South Sudan will help his nation on its way to peace.
Kuany shared his story of destruction, survival and redemption with a packed auditorium at the World Methodist Council at the Lake Junaluska, (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center. The Nov. 13-15 event was the fourth annual Peace Conference — “Poverty, Abundance and Peace: Seeking Economic Justice for All God’s Children.”
The conference explored causes of poverty and economic disparity to equip participants as change agents for a more just and peaceful world. Kuany; Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; and United Methodist Bishop Nkula Ntanda Ntambo of the North Katanga Area, Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke at the conference.
Kuany shared how he founded Rebuild South Sudan, a non governmental organization working to build a new interfaith school to help right the wrongs in his native country.
Violence, then a long walk
Kuany remembers well the day of the attack. He had been playing with boys his age on the outskirts of his small farming village. Born to a family of nine children in the mostly Christian Dinka Bor culture, he and his playmates were no strangers to violence. The government in the north controlled Sudan then, but the southern tip contained most of the resources – including oil – coveted by those in power. The extremist forces tried to force Christians and members of traditional faith groups to convert to their version of Islam.
“The Dinka people became a target for their beliefs,” Kuany said, recalling how village elders often warned them never to be captured or they would be cut into pieces alive.
When the boys heard the gunfire and saw their village begin to burn – and saw government troops running toward them – they fled for their lives into the woods, beginning a journey of more than 2,000 miles that ended at a refugee camp in Kenya.
“How did I survive? I don’t have an answer,” Kuany said. “I always say God protected me.”
The boys joined others fleeing similarly destroyed villages but had nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a will to survive to keep them walking. Animals and dehydration as well as soldiers were the enemy. Kuany said he watched many of his friends die.
“We drank our urine as water and would eat the leaves of trees as food,” he said.
They eventually reached Ethiopia and lived for four years in a United Nations refugee camp. However, political violence in the 1990s, when Ethiopia was torn by civil war and later Eritrea declared war against Ethiopia, forced them to flee once again – this time at gunpoint into the deep, crocodile-infested Gilo River. Waiting for them on the other side were Sudanese forces.
“Thousands of people drowned, and the people who couldn’t swim would pile on you and pull you under, and you would drown,” Kuany said.
He was one of the lucky ones who knew how to swim, and he realized his only hope was to dive underwater and swim as far from the crowd as he could.
Faced with Sudanese forces waiting to capture him, Kuany and the boys who made it kept running. They walked another thousand miles until they reached refuge in Kenya.
‘We demanded education’
Life in a refugee camp was rough, Kuany explained. Food was scarce, and the boys lived on one meal a day. There were few medical supplies.
Yet, when asked what they wanted most, the answer was easy.
“We demanded education,” Kuany said. With no family to teach them, he said they told the camps, “Education was our mothers and fathers.”
They got what they asked for. Kuany and the other “Lost Boys of Sudan” learned their lessons under a tree where they first prayed in the sand.
Kuany finished high school, moved to the United States through a sponsorship program and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and his master’s from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.
Kuany was driven. His education had a purpose. He knew he needed to do something for the people he left behind – those who were not as lucky as he was to make it out of a war-torn nation.
“I had hope all these years God had a plan for me,” he said. “I always thought, ‘What can I do? What can I do for my country?’”
‘I had a dream’
Meanwhile, good things were happening in Sudan. As more and more people learned the stories of Kuany and the other “Lost Boys,” the United States in November 2002 passed the Sudan Peace Act. Spurred by this, northern and southern Sudan signed a peace agreement in 2005. Just four months ago, South Sudan became an independent republic.
Good news soon came for Kuany as well. After spending years believing he was an orphan, he learned his mother and younger sister had survived the attacks and were living in a refugee camp in North Uganda, and his father ended up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though his sister eventually died in that camp, he finally got the chance to reunite with his mother in 2007 on his first return trip to his native land.
Then, one night, Kuany said, he had a dream that shook him to the core.
“I heard a voice: ‘Michael, have you forgotten the people you left behind?’” Kuany said.
The next morning, he withdrew all of his savings, $200, and gave it to his U.S. family, telling them he wanted to build a school for the people of Sudan.
A school, Kuany knew, meant options for poor, rural villagers often tempted by government forces into non-peaceful living.
“In North Uganda, it’s very easy for the (militant group) Lord’s Resistance Army to recruit children to fight their war,” he said. “We don’t want that to happen to the children of South Sudan.”
Kuany hit the speaking circuit, raising money as quickly as he could. Rebuild Sudan has raised more than $200,000 to build a school in South Sudan for Muslim, Christian and children of other faiths to learn and grow together.
“I truly believe that when you have a dream … people will support it,” Kuany said. “The problem is not finished. Let’s work together to bring peace to Sudan … so they don’t see themselves as enemies, but as brothers and sisters.
“What happened there can easily happen here.”
*Connor is editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.
News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Jessica Connor, Published by United Methodist Church on 15 November 2011. See original article here.
My country, the Republic of South Sudan, is suffering from chronic depression over the killings of their own citizens. The liberation process of South Sudan had different fronts: physical warfare, international diplomatic engagement, and civil society advocacy. All of these led to the creation of this new country. The 21 year civil war between the Sudan armed forces and the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) had paramount contributions of the grassroots from both sides. This article examines human rights abuses against civilians, the disarmament campaign in Jonglei and discrimination against the Diasporas.
Human Rights Abuse in South Sudan
South Sudan was granted self-autonomy under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Sudanese government for the period of six years before votes for independence could be cast in 2011. Regardless of this beautiful opportunity for South Sudanese to have full custody of their own internal affairs, citizens remain in fear. Today the universal idea of freedom for which the South Sudanese have been fighting for is still a dream for them. Citizens are arrested and killed for expressing their views on whether our country is heading in the right direction.
I have lived in South Sudan’s capital of Juba and I have witnessed how civilians are being treated. There are no legal procedures being followed and any punishment for those found to have committed the crime is not defined by law. It is based on how politically connected you are. What makes our current leadership in Juba different from the government in Khartoum that used to deny us our rights? Most of the crimes being committed in the Republic of South Sudan today are being committed by law enforcement agents and the government elites (those handling big positions in the government and in the military). A democracy must respect all public opinions and worldviews. It is important for South Sudan to create a positive image on the world stage as it galvanizes international support. Every nation stands on its own records and it is clear that South Sudan has failed its first test as a country. It has failed in the respect that many human rights violation have occurred in this first half of 2012.
On many occasions citizens are arrested for voicing their own views. Early in 2012, Dr. James Okuk, a noted writer, was taken into custody by security agents for his writing against corruption within the new government. He was arrested with no legal charges made against him. He was only released because of public outcry.
Deng Monydit, another noted writer, was arrested in regards to an article he wrote regarding the marriage of the President’s daughter to an Ethiopian national. Whether one agrees with Mr. Monydit on his stance in the article or not he is irrelevant, he is entitled to his opinion as a South Sudanese citizen.
Disarmament Campaign in Jonglei
Since the peace deal was signed in 2005, Jonglei state has found itself enmeshed in tribal warfare. Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands of animals have been reported stolen. In addition to this, a large number of children have been abducted from their families. Little independent research has been conducted but there is evidence that the government of Sudan has been supporting local militias to destabilize South Sudan.
In March 2012, the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir issued an executive order to deploy 15,000 combat forces to collect local arms that were in the hands of civilians. This move by the president was received with mixed reactions. Some people supported the idea to conduct statewide disarmament and some people rejected the plan claiming it would leave them with no protection when others are not disarmed.
This executive order was put in place all over Jonglei state at the same time. There are indications that improvements have been made. According to the Governor of Jonglei state, Kuol Manyang Juuk, violence has been reduced by 90% which is a very big achievement.
Since the inception of the disarmament campaign, there have been issues of torture, rape and killing by the SPLA forces. A woman was raped by two SPLA soldiers in Kolnyang Payam in Bor County. The victim was later notified that the culprits were arrested and they will face justice.
But there is no trial scheduled and it is uncertain that the perpetrators are in jail. How can justice be served when the victims are not involved?
In Twic East and Bor counties respectively, many people have experienced torture in the hands of the SPLA. The SPLA were given mandates to collect all illegal arms from the people. Not everybody in South Sudan has access to weapons but when some individuals told the SPLA that they didn’t have any arms, they were beaten and tortured. It is not known whether there were instructions given to the SPLA on how to deal with those who didn’t have weapons. All of these issues have been raised and no action has been taken by authorities in charge.
In July 2012 when the nation was celebrating the one year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the diaspora were mourning the death of their brother, Mayol Kuch who died in the hands of the SPLA in Bor, South Sudan while he was visiting his home village of Kolnyang in Bor County. Mr. Kuch was sleeping in a hut when the SPLA soldiers went to his village in response to the local disputes among groups of people in the village. As soon as the soldiers got into his hut, they started beating him and took him to the army barracks where he was tortured throughout the night. After Mr. Kuch lost consciousness, he was released and taken to the hospital in Bortown where he was later pronounced dead.
Mr. Kuch is one of the ‘Lost Boys’ who walked for a thousand miles from South Sudan to Ethiopian and Kenyan camps in 1987 as the result of the 21 year civil war between the Sudan armed forces and South Sudanese. The lost boys have made an enormous contribution in the signing of the CPA and they have raised international support for South Sudan. The United States is one of the leading countries that have played an important role in bringing peace to South Sudan. This has been done through the connections of the lost boys and many other South Sudanese Diasporas. Mr. Kuch suffered all his life for the country he loves and now he shamelessly died in the hands of his own people. It is time for the government of South Sudan to make things straight and bring those who are responsible to justice. What good did the disarmament forces bring to the people of Jonglei state? Mr. Kuch was a naturalized US citizen from the state of Texas. The government of South Sudan must publicly explain how he died and what measures have been taken to bring justice to this injustice. Is this the nation we dreamed for where injustice spread like a wild fire? Lord prints our national identity in our hearts and change the mindset of those who think they are the supreme owners of our land and that we all belong to South Sudan. In the name of freedom, peace to South Sudan and to the world!
–Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a master’s degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder, president and CEO of Rebuild South Sudan.
We have exciting news!!! On July 2, 2012 Michael Ayuen Kuany married Deborah Nyap Majer Akon in Bor, South Sudan and their story was nothing short of incredible. This week, I was given a great gift as I sat down with the newlyweds and heard them recount their courtship and vision for their shared future.
Both refugees from the war in South Sudan, their journeys out of the Kenyan camps took them on completely separate paths. Michael became a Lost Boy under Clinton’s administration and was sent to Wisconsin in the United States while Deborah traveled with her mother and brothers to Adelaide in Australia. There they both pursued education to develop tools to someday return to their country and help to rebuild their nation.
Longing to visit to South Sudan for the first time since they were children and be reunited with their family members, they both independently visited South after the referendum in 2006. At that time, Michael was reconnected with his mother and brothers, and Deborah had found her father, a General in the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) of South Sudan, whom she and family thought had been killed in war. They recounted similar experiences of their time there and knowing that they had finally found their home.
School and work obligations required them to return to the US and Australia but independently returned once again in the summer of 2009. It was that trip where they would first be introduced. Both shy but interested, they exchanged contact information and for the next year and a half, wrote emails and Skyped across continents, building trust and a love for one another.
It was in January of 2012 that they decided to come to their parents with their request to wed. While they were both quick to admit they are not traditional village people, they still wanted to respect the marriage process of their tribes and move forward with the appropriate rituals, though their transcontinental courtship had been anything but traditional.
The process first began by each family’s investigation the other, looking into the life and actions of not only the suitor but also his and her family to make sure they are clean and respectable amongst the community. Then the family and clans met each other through a series of introductions and feasts. Deborah travelled to Kenya to meet Michael’s mother and Michael, at the request of Deborah’s father, came to visit him for the first time in March of 2012 (which was only the second time Michael and Deborah had even talked face to face!)
Michael also began the dowry process, “In America, this would be seen as buying your woman. But it’s not that way. The dowry gives the groom and opportunity to thank your bride’s family for raising your wife and to honor the clan for carrying her.” Michael had been saving his money in preparation for this gift back to Deborah’s family, extremely grateful for the gift of a partner in life he would receive in her.
The young people of each clan were also a part of the negotiations. “The young men of Deborah’s village came to my village to see the cows that our clan. If they are satisfied with the cows, then they will continue to negotiation, deciding which cows will be given to the family members, the best ones for the mother, father, brothers, and the rest of the trip. Once they have negotiated the cows, then have a feast to celebrate.”
During this process, Michael wasn’t the only one pursuing Deborah’s hand. Several other men whom Deborah didn’t know were requesting visits with her family but thankfully, her father honored her choice rather than making the choice for her, “I don’t want these other guys; I just wanted to be with Michael.”
However, with Michael still in the US and not with his bride to be, some of these men could have forced her hand. It is not uncommon for a suitor to take a girl and consummate the marriage without the family’s approval. Hearing rumors of this happening, Michael and Deborah sped up their plans. “We were not planning on getting married so soon as we wanted a very big wedding and involve our friends from all over the world at the end of the year. But when the threats started coming in, we knew we couldn’t do it any more. I did not want to lose my wife and my wife did not want to lose me. So we decided to have a small ceremony in South Sudan.
A small wedding, I quickly learned in South Sudan meant over 200 people and a full day of celebrating. All of their family came from the cities and far of places to Bor. A cow was killed for the wedding feast and all the elders and uncles gave speeches and words of wisdom to the couple.
Only days later, they left South Sudan, but now hand in hand. They are setting up their home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and Deborah needs to quickly set up immigration paperwork to allow her to stay. It is so clear to me that even in this brief conversation that they are a perfect match. Michael smiles as he says, “This woman is driving me crazy. I think about her all the time and don’t want to miss any moment with her. Now I have a new energy.”
Independently, they have committed to give back to their nation of South Sudan and now they are excited to do so together. “No one will come from heaven to do this work. It will have to be the people who have gone through hardship who can bring peace and stability.” Deborah had actually followed the work of Michael and Rebuild South Sudan before they even met and she is excited to contribute her interests in education and women empowerment to our team. “I knew I wouldn’t have to fight him for my dreams for my dreams were already his dreams. We both share some much in common and it’s hard to find that; once you do, you don’t let it go.”
Please join us in celebrating Michael and Deborah’s union. Please send all well wishes and monetary gifts to cover their visa expenses to them at 922 Greewood Ct. Oshkosh, WI 54901 or email us and we can pass on your celebratory wishes to them.
I am one of the nine living children born to my family. As a young boy born in the rural village of Jalle in southern Sudan, my 6’4” mother believed that I was born in the year of great drought. She doesn’t know exactly what year it was because there were no clinics in the area at that time and birth certificates to this day are not issued. My mother named me Ayuen, which means “rope”. Around the time of my birth my father’s mother died. In Dinka Bor culture, a rope is worn by grieving adults as a sign of mourning. Life in my village was based on agricultural production and cattle herding. My mother tells me that I was a very active child who loved to run and join my age-mates in traditional dancing.
One evening, when I was perhaps six years old, Sudanese government forces from the north attacked my village. I saw smoke. I heard the sound of guns. After years of hearing from village elders that we were to run to the forest in the event of an attack, I did not hesitate. My playmates were with me but I was still very scared. I did not know at that time that I would not see my beloved mother or my village for another 20 years.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is made up of Arab Muslims in the dry north and Black Africans who practice Christianity and traditional religions in the fertile south. Fundamentalist Arabs control the government. While the reasons for the 21-civil war are many and complex, much of it is fueled by greed and religious intolerance. Southern Sudan is rich in oil and agriculture, which the Northern government wants to control. The government in the North was also killing Southerners who refused to convert to Islam. In the mid 1980’s, southern Sudanese villages were systematically torched and by the war’s end in 2005, over 2 million southern Sudanese were dead and 4 million displaced.
After my village was attacked, I walked for one thousand miles to Ethiopia. I did not know where I was going. But I was not alone. By this time there were thousands of us fleeing the south. A long line of thin, poorly-clothed, hungry and very frightened children. As young Dinka boys are often playing outside of the village and older boys are caring for livestock, we did not know where to go when we saw our homes in flames. From villages near and far we ran from soldiers and from the sound of guns. The journey was exhausting. I remembered when I was tired and wanted to sit down and rest, but Mamer and Alier, the older boys who were helping me, instructed me firmly not to rest. They explained that if I stopped to rest I would be captured and killed by the Islamic forces. So I continued to walk with fear, not knowing what might happen to me. Life was hard because there was no food, water, or medical assistance. I was always worried that wild animals might kill me. A lot of my friends died in my presence. Some were shot. Others were simply too tired to keep going. Others died of starvation. I was sure that it would not be long before it was my turn to die.
When we reached the Ethiopian border, we were rounded up by men whose language I did not understand. They scared me because they had guns. Over time, the United Nations (UN) set up a refugee camp for us and Ethiopia became my home for four years. There was no medical assistance and many people died from diseases. But at times it felt like home. My friends and I had built ourselves huts similar to the tukuls we lived in back home in Sudan. I was also reunited with my brother Peter Kuany, (although I always worried about what had happened to the rest of my family). I was thankful for the UN workers. Even though we couldn’t understand each other, we used gestures to communicate. They gave us food and provided some school supplies such as notebooks and pencils.
But in 1991, Ethiopia split into two countries and Eritrea declared a war against Ethiopia. The refugees were given 24 hours notice to immediately evacuate the camp. After 24 hours Ethiopian and Eritrean forces clashed in the camp and I—along with many of my young friends—were forced into the Gilo river. The Gilo is very deep and full of crocodiles. I had learned how to swim in Ethiopia, but many of my friends perished on that day. After I crossed the river I was on Sudanese land. But as soon as I stepped my foot onto my home soil the Sudanese Islamic government forces aggressively moved in with the intention of capturing and killing me. So, again, I ran.
For another thousand miles I ran with the boys who survived the Gilo. We fled from the Sudanese troops for many weeks. Again, we had no food or water for our journey. I was older now but when we were given that 24 hour notice in the Ethiopian camp I felt like a child. I wondered to myself ‘Where will we go? What are we going to eat?’ We passed through many different villages of other tribes but few people were around and we were a large group. We kept walking until we reached an area in southern Sudan that was controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (the SPLA was comprised of southern Sudanese rebels who were fighting the Sudanese government). Finally we had someone to defend us. When the SPLA saw our rag-tag group of kids being chased by the government forces they rushed out in front of us to fight. We were pushed behind them and directed to walk towards a place called “Kenya”. I had never heard of such a place but I knew it was safer than Sudan.
Kakuma refugee camp is located in northern Kenya and I was one boy among thousands of other refugees who came to seek protection. Kakuma is in a dry desert where it seldom rains. Life in the camp was miserable. There was no shelter provided for us, it was always hot and windy, and there was never enough food. We lived on one small meal a day, which was comprised of ungrounded corn. Again I had to start from scratch The UN was the only source for food and medical supplies.
While I was in the camp, I asked the UN aid workers to teach me the English alphabet and I also asked for education to be provided in the camp. Both in the Ethiopian and Kenyan camps, I used to ask the UN aid workers to teach me an English word and what I learned I would teach to my friends. The aid workers were very kind and helpful in most cases. A lot of them were white from the European countries and the United States of America and few from other nationalities. I deeply appreciated the help I got from the UN workers and I wanted to be like them. I hoped that someday I would be able to help people in distress.
Kakuma was my home for ten years, until 2001, when the United States offered the so called “Lost Boys of Sudan” a chance to come to their country.
After 14 years living in refugee camps, the United States government kindly approved me to come to the country. Because I was thirsty for education, I didn’t waste any time, but went to school and got my GED and then went to college. I studied International studies and political science. My dream was to someday join the United Nations and advocate for those who are in need. I wanted to somehow pay back all the people who had helped me during my time of need. After a lot of thinking, I decided to a form a nonprofit organization to raise money to build an elementary school in my hometown in southern Sudan. I knew that there were thousands of war orphans who needed help and the only way that they could have a better future is through education. In 2005 I started Rebuild South Sudan Inc, with an aim to provide an education for the many children of Jalle Sudan, in particular for the many war orphans and for Jalle’s girls—who so often are discriminated against and denied an education.
Today I want to encourage countries in this same way. I am left over from the war. There is still much pain in my heart and I will never forget what I have seen and endured. However I want to use my experiences to help others—both individuals and nations—heal. I want to bring people and nations together through diplomacy so that conflicts can be settled with words instead of with guns and tanks. I will do everything in my power to prevent another child from losing her family, her home, her country. I am again asking to be taught, but this time I recognize that I too have much to offer.
Written by Sam Lucero | The Compass
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 11:29
New Catholic Charities employee, one of ‘lost boys of Sudan,’ says education is key to country’s success
GREEN BAY — Michael Ayuen Kuany was about 6 years old when Sudanese soldiers attacked his village in Jalle Payam, located in southern Sudan. “I could see the smoke and I could see the government troops in army uniforms coming towards us,” said Kuany. “Their goal was to capture the boys.”
His country was in civil war. Arab Muslims in the north controlled the military and their attacks on the south, populated by black African Christians, were meant to wipe out future village leaders, he explained.
The sound of guns in the distance triggered a warning he remembered hearing from village elders: “Run to the forest. Do not let yourself be captured because you will be cut into pieces,” recalled Kuany, who was recently hired by Catholic Charities of Green Bay as a family strengthening manager, working with immigrants and refugees.
Kuany ran and ran, along with other boys from his village. “I ran until I met up with other groups of boys from other villages,” he said. By the time they reached the Ethiopian border, their numbers grew into the thousands.
It was here, at the Panido refugee camp, that Kuany and more than 20,000 other Sudanese boys could finally rest. Many died making the 1,000-mile trek across dangerous terrain, some of them killed by wild animals, he noted. For the next 14 years, Kuany lived a squalid existence in refugee camps, first in Ethiopia, then in Kenya.
“Many people died of diseases, lack of nutrition,” said Kuany. When Ethiopia faced its own civil war, troops removed the Sudanese boys from the Panido camp. They again had to evade Sudanese soldiers and walk another 1,000 miles before reaching Kenya. The United Nations helped establish a refugee camp for them in Kakuma.
“In the Kakuma camp, life was still hard, but we asked for education to be provided because we valued education,” said Kuany, who spoke the Dinka dialect and learned English while living in the camps. “We had seen it from the United Nations aid workers who came to help us and we thought getting an education was the best means for us to be self-sufficient and be able to give back and help other people.”
When the international spotlight captured the plight of the Sudanese boys at Kakuma in the 1990s, the story of the “lost boys of Sudan” helped reunite many families. For Kuany, it meant emigration into the United States in 2001.
He was sent to Atlanta, but he was told he had to wait two years to enroll in school. He met a family from Monroe, Wis., and was told he could move to Wisconsin and begin school immediately.
Moves to Oshkosh
After passing his GED test, he enrolled at UW-Madison. He transferred to UW-Oshkosh, taking classes in international studies and political science, in order to serve as an interpreter for a Sudanese family.
Kuany said his goal since arriving in the U.S. has been to help refugees, especially those from his homeland. Over the years he has spoken to groups around the country and was pleased when the U.S. government passed the Sudan Peace Act in 2002. In 2005, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed a comprehensive peace agreement. During the 21-year civil war, more than 2 million southern Sudanese died and 4 million were displaced.
That same year, Kuany founded Rebuild South Sudan, a nonprofit initiative to help people in his homeland.
Education has no borders
“When the peace deal was signed in 2005, I remembered what I went through and what many other children were going through,” he said. “What I valued the most was education, because education has no borders. You can help anyone anywhere. So I founded Rebuild South Sudan to build a school for the orphans. The education they get can be used for the greater good of Sudan.”
The program also builds wells for access to clean drinking water, which Kuany knows can be the difference between life and death in Sudan.
“My youngest sister, who was in a refugee camp with my mother in Uganda … died of diarrhea, which can be treated easily here,” said Kuany. “But because of the lack of clean drinking water, it cost her life.”
Kuany returned to Sudan for the first time in 2007 to see the progress of his foundation and to visit his village. After earning his master’s degree in restorative justice and international development from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Va., in 2009, he returned to Sudan. “I was working with the United Nations training government officials on a number of issues such as rule of law. One of the projects I loved the most was called, ‘Access to Justice,’ because, to me, I feel like justice is not there and it was very critical area.”
Last July, South Sudan became an independent nation, but many challenges face the new government, said Kuany.
Relatives die in December attack
Last month, an ex-general in the South Sudan army led an attack on Kuany’s village of Juet, killing more than 40 people, including 10 of his relatives. This attack followed a similar massacre last August, when more than 600 people were killed.
On Dec. 21, Bishop David Ricken celebrated a Mass at St. Joseph Chapel, located on the diocesan grounds, and offered special intentions for the victims of the attack.
“That prayer actually helped me,” Kuany told The Compass in an interview Dec. 22. “I appreciate Bishop Ricken coming up with that idea of praying for the victims and supporting them.”
Kuany continues to promote peace in South Sudan from afar. He sees his new job with Catholic Charities as an extension of his commitment to helping people in his homeland. He also knows from experience that Catholic agencies are committed to the cause of easing human suffering.
“I accepted this position because of the trust and reputation that I have learned and seen in the work of Catholic Charities here and also in the work of Catholic Relief Services that is working in Sudan,” said Kuany. “CRS is one of the (non-governmental organizations) that is well respected in the country. I have seen and I believe in what they do.”
Education is key in Sudan
Kuany’s childhood memories of escaping death, mixed with recollections of happy times in his village, make him want to help other people facing hardships. He knows from experience that education is the key to prosperity.
“We are building a school and I call it a school of hope,” he said. “We need to restore hope and confidence that has been lost, to educate the minds and the hearts of those children who have lost their families so that they become good disciples of peace.”
He spent six months in Jalle Payam last year watching the progress of the school’s construction, which should be completed in early 2012.
Kuany, who is Christian, asks that people pray for the success of South Sudan. He also asks people to consider helping him in his efforts to educate Sudanese children.
With the continued support of Americans, he said, “South Sudan is not going to be a failed country. With the (natural) resources they have, it could be used in a better way to help human life. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Education, not guns, will transform his people, he said.
“Guns are not a solution to resolve our differences. … I believe in education. We help one child at a time and that child will multiply to many. That is what I’m asking people to take a look and help.”
Article originally The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WI; Original article can be found here.
Juet Massacre: Genocide in Jonglei, South Sudan
December 12th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
By Michael Ayuen Kuany, USA (Borglobe)
Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 up to the independence of South Sudan in July of 2011, Jonglei state has been a battlefield with little attention from the government of South Sudan. Many lives have been lost due to tribal warfare and the presence of militia groups in the state. Last year, one of the generals of the SPLA, George Athor, defected from the mainstream national army (the SPLA) and initiated a rebellion movement against the government of South Sudan. Out of frustration for his own failure to win the votes for a governorship, this Jonglei native has been leading a murderous attack on civilians ever since.
The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and the SPLA have completely failed in providing security for civilians. They have been unsuccessful in containing Athor and his militia in the state and ending this rebellion. Athor recruits notorious tribes, especially the Murle tribe, to stage war on his behalf. The Murle is one of the smallest tribes in South Sudan and it has been heavily armed by the regime in Khartoum. The Murle tribe has been a cause of instability in Jonglei state especially among the Nuer, Bor Dinka, and Anyuak tribes and in surroundings communities for a long time.
In August 2011, the Murle attacked Lou Nuer. Under the leadership of George Athor, over 600 people were killed and thousands of cows were stolen. Those who were most deeply affected by such a barbaric killing were the children and women. Last week, the new government of South Sudan went on a luxury retreat in Kenya, leaving poor civilians unarmed and vulnerable. Regardless of all these killings done by the same group, no action has been taken by the government or the army to bring forth perpetrators of this violence and justice for its victims.
On Monday, December 5th, 2011, the Juet community in Jalle Payam in Jonglei state was attacked by a group of well armed men who dressed in military uniforms. Over 42 were left dead and dozens were wounded. This is the second attack in the past four weeks. In the initial attack, four people were murdered and hundreds of cows were taken. The December 5th attack occurred around 4:30 p.m. when villagers are wandering between villages getting ready for the night. The youth were at the cattle camp in Twic East County. Only elderly men, women and children were in the village. If the young men had been in the village, they could have attempted to defend their people.
According to the reports on the ground, five villages, Achondok, Wurea, Papeer, Marial and Akot are completely burned down and 1,302 head of cattle and 50 goats have been stolen. The report also estimates that there were about 400 attackers.
If the security forces of South Sudan are in place, why would security intelligence fail to identify those who possess arms in the country and fail to determine where those weapons are from? Or was it ignorance on the part of the south’s security forces that led to such a deadly attack? Security is the responsibility of the government.
Every time incidents like this are reported to the government of South Sudan, the reports fall on deaf ears. The attacks are labeled “tribal fighting” and it is implied that these attacks have nothing to do with the new government, security or law enforcement.
Seldom when the Murle attacked in the past, children and women were not killed. The Murle tribe is known for child abduction and cattle rustling. But in Monday’s attack, children and women were murdered. What motivated the attackers to burn down entire villages and kill innocent people is not known. These deadly attacks which have targeted women and children raise serious concerns as to whether the government is there for the people and has the means to provide security.
Juet in the liberation process
Like any other community in South Sudan, Juet has demonstrated loyalty and commitment to the liberation process of South Sudan from the north. Our men and women have died in the front lines fighting for freedom from the north for the whole of South Sudan. Our hearts are broken to see our innocent people being killed at a time when we should be enjoying peace. What hurts the most is the silence from the government of South Sudan regarding these attacks and the government giving no response to providing the security that is desperately needed. Its citizens are left vulnerable to daily attacks. Our loyalty to the freedom of South Sudan has been constant and has cost us dearly.
Since the civil war began in 1955 to 1983, our participation in the struggle for freedom has been unwavering. We have fought and sacrificed for the greater good of our country South Sudan. Throughout the liberation struggles, we lost great men, and great fighters such as Anyar Apiu, Ayuen Thiong, Mabior Ayuen Kuany, Kuany Akech Dut, Apiu Garang Deng, Aquila Manyuon, Jok Dhuom Jok ,and Ajok Malony, who led the operations in varies fronts where the lost of lives was great.
The sons of the village that was so severely attacked on Monday are risking their lives leading operations on the borders of South Sudan. The question demanding an answer is why should we be loyal to the new government of South Sudan when the government is not even attempting to provide security for us? Juet was capable of defending her people and her territory before disarmament. Our community has been disarmed three times since the CPA was signed in 2005. If the new government does not provide citizens with security, how are we to defend ourselves without arms? Our community is being destroyed while our brothers from this very community are deployed on the borders to protect South Sudan.
We applaud the motion raised in South Sudan’s Legislative Assembly by the Honorable Maker Thiong mal which was seconded by the Honorable Deng Dau Malek that the August house should put the discussion of lack of security at the top of its agenda so that the killing and looting will end.
We, the citizens of Juet community, call on the governments of South Sudan, Jonglei state and the Murle community to negotiate an end to the massacre of the civilians. We also call on the government of South Sudan to immediately order the deployment of armed forces to the area. The Murle community must stop supporting militia groups and they must return all stolen cows. This is a peaceful call and we hope our brothers will cooperate with our demands. Our community has been victimized by the Murle for decades. It must be made clear to the Murle and to the world that we can no longer allow these attacks to happen.
Due to the severity of the damages done by Monday’s attack, we appeal to humanitarian organizations to provide food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical supplies to those suffering from this recent attack.
We are thankful to our friends who are standing by us during this difficult time as we mourn the death of our loved ones and those severely injured by the attack. We are especially grateful to the United State Embassy in Juba, the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the Commissioner of Bor County, Maker Lual Kuol, and the people of surrounding communities who came to our rescue.
Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He is the founder, president and CEO of Rebuild South Sudan. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Article originally published in the Bor Globe.
Global Summit on Human Rights: Meeting with the President of South Sudan
The month of September brought the world bodies together to mark the 66th United Nations General Assembly in which my baby nation, the Republic of South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, addressed the general assembly for the first time as an independent nation. This was the time when hopes rises, and freedom rings in the ears, and hearts of South Sudanese who had suffered under the shadow of silent for so long. Read more about the President’s speech on our
I volunteered myself to go to New York City with my friend John Dau to attend Global NGOs Summit on Human Rights and to meet with the delegations from the Republic of South Sudan. I was fortunate to meet with many dignateries of my new country including Salva Kiir (President of the South Sudan), H.E. Nhial Deng Nhial (Foreign Minister), H.E Dr. Michael Miller (Minister of Health), H.E. Garang Diing Akuong (Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment), H.E. Emmanuel Lowilla (Minister in the office of the President) and many other junior officers.
My friend, John Dau, was one of the speakers invited to share his personal testimony on how he became a victim of war, and about his work in South Sudan. Like any other ‘Lost Boys and Girls,’ his foundation enormously contributed to the nation building of the world’s newest nation. I am proud for the path that I have taken to work for the greater good of my country and to make a difference in people’s lives.
I was amazed for the stories shared by the victims of freedom from around the world including the former Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the government of Sudan. Dr. Luka Biong quoted Martin Luther King “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963). Dr. Biong resigned from his position as minister when the government in north Sudan continued to bomb his home region of Abyei, an area claimed by both north and South Sudan. He is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called Kush Inc, a human rights initiative.
The summit ended with renewed vision to continue to work for peace and justice but no solution to the human rights problems was proposed or came to light. My vision for peace is to train more disciples and ambassadors of peace like Jesus did when he recruited 12 disciples as his followers. Education is a way forward in achieving peace and justice. Please help the Republic of South Sudan by supporting local NGOs that are working in bringing peace to the war torn
country. Rebuild South Sudan is one of those small NGOs that need your help. Check us on the web at: rebuildsouthsudan.org
Thank you for your support!
Michael Ayuen Kuany
President, Founder and CEO, Rebuild South Sudan
Tears of Joy: Future and Challenges of South Sudan
July 23rd, 2011 at 1:44 pm
By Michael Ayuen Kuany, USA (Borglobe)
The time for the important work is now, not tomorrow or the next day. The hopes of our citizens and the eyes of the world are upon us. On Saturday July 9th, 2011, a new nation was born, the Republic of South Sudan. As the 193rd nation, it has joined the global community. There are many things that brought about South Sudan’s break from Sudan – a lack of political will, irresponsible governance based on Islamic fundamentalist laws, unequal distribution of resources, religious persecution, and cultural coercion of which the forcing of the Arabic language on the black African communities is but one example.
This article examines the post-independence era of this new nation, the challenges facing it and reflections based on firsthand experiences while in South Sudan for six months. The article also examined the role of the Republic of South Sudan in global politics.
South Sudan and Independence
The Republic of South Sudan gained her independence on July 9, 2011 from the government of Sudan whose main goal was to serve the interests and well-being of mainly Muslim Arabs in the north. South Sudan is a land locked country rich in oil, agricultural production, wildlife and many unprocessed minerals and yet the people of South Sudan have rarely benefited from these resources. African’s longest war ended 6 years ago when both North and South Sudan signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending a 21-year civil war which claimed over two millions lives and four million more individuals finding refuge in displacement camps in neighboring Africans countries. Many refugees applied for asylum in western countries in hopes of obtaining proper education and some security in their lives. As stipulated in the CPA regulations, a peaceful referendum was to be held in January of 2011 for the South Sudanese to decide whether they wanted to separate from Sudan. In the 6 years between the signing of the CPA and the referendum, Sudan’s government in Khartoum had a chance to win the hearts and minds of the South Sudanese by adhering to all of the provisions of the CPA and by helping in development projects in the south. Unfortunately, Khartoum failed to make unity attractive.
98.3 percent of the populace of south Sudan voted for independence from the north in the January referendum. Unity was not an option for people in the south after the north’s long history of broken promises. It was a long journey, but on July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was born.
Recognition of South Sudan
In July, representatives from around the world came to Juba, the capital of South Sudan to witness historical celebrations of this new country’s independence and to congratulate the people of South Sudan for their achievements. The United Nations Security Council convened in New York for a full recognition of South Sudan as a country and to welcome her to the community of nations. At the session, the representatives of South Sudan agreed to the terms of the UN and promised to abide by its provisions. South Sudan’s flag is flying in the sky at the UN headquarters in New York. Please welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the global community!
Thanks be to God that the Promised Land has been reached in glory. Getting to this place in history is a great joy.
However, the realization of this day was brought about by the many struggles and sacrifices of its peoples. We, the people of this great nation must stand up and unite behind our Joshua of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir Mayardit for he has dedicated his life to lead our country out of injustice to freedom. We are blessed with many resources and need to make sure they are used wisely and equally. The United States’ former civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” (Martin Luther King Jr). Sons and daughters of South Sudan shed their blood for us to be free and to be able to claim our rights.
External and Internal challenges
There are many challenges facing the new nation. Borders are not yet demarcated, national debts have not been agreed upon, citizenship of people who have lived in both north and South Sudan have not been worked out, and tariffs and charges for the oil to go through the north due to South Sudan’s being land locked have not been determined. A long term controversy over who owns the Abyei region continues to rage, as well.
Aside from struggles that still exist between the north and the south, corruption is a serious problem not just in the north but also in the south. Since the CPA was signed in 2005, individuals have been employed in the south not on the basis of competency but through family connections. Many employees in government offices are incompetents in keeping up with the 21 century technology. Most of the private secretaries in the government offices are from Uganda and Kenya. There are individuals in the south qualified to do these jobs but south Sudanese government officials don’t want their corruption to be exposed and feel it is more likely to be exposed if their own people were their employees. Other challenges facing this new nation involve insurgencies fighting against the government and tribal conflicts. Two senior generals defected from the South Sudan national army (SPLA) declaring a war against the new government. Thankfully, the President of the Republic of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit granted them safe return without charges brought against them. This shows an effort on President Kiir’s part to settle peacefully the conflicts that have already arisen within this new country. President Kiir told George Athor Deng, Peter Gatdet and Galuak Gai to return home, that they were needed and that it was important to put aside differences at this crucial time in our new country.
Peaceful coexistence with neighbors is vital for this new nation’s national and economic security. In order for South Sudan to prove and legitimize herself in the global world, it must broaden its diplomatic agendas and channels. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, diplomacy is defined as “the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/). Diplomacy is the best tool for building trust between individuals and nations. South Sudan’s civil society, grassroots organizations and community organizations must be empowered to be the central force in the nation’s diplomacy at the national levels. As citizens, we must unite under our national identity and put aside our tribal differences.
South Sudan in the World
The Republic of South Sudan can be a successful global economic partner considering its wealth of resources and it can be a partner in helping stem the tide of terrorism using its experiences with war and peace.
The government of South Sudan needs to conduct intensive evaluations of each ministry’s performance and rid the new country of corruption on all fronts. The rule of law must be the central judge and police for all people in our beloved South Sudan regardless of one’s status. The government should employ more young people and women who are qualified. In order for South Sudan to become a player in the world economy, new ideas and up to date technology must be encouraged.
Free at last! Free at last! (Martin Luther King).
Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder, president and CEO of Rebuild South Sudan. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families awarded Michael with the Journey of Hope Award on June 18th, 2011. The award recognizes achievements of refugees who came to the U.S, especially emphasizing the work they do for others in their communities. The competition to be nominated for an award like this is fierce, about 60,000 refugees were considered for it this year in Wisconsin. Michael was nominated by various refugee agencies that he has worked with in the past, back in Wisconsin.
Michael Kuany, Rebuild South Sudan’s Founder and CEO, accepted a position from the President of South Sudan to represent the Lost Boys to the government. Along with another representative, he will be working in the DC located embassy. His work will include a campaign to relieve the student loans for the Lost Boys, placing Lost Boys and other refugees in programs to assist in the building of their new nation, and representing the Lost Boys to the government of South Sudan. Michael will beginning working at the embassy when he returns from S. Sudan in June.
From Michael Kuany
Greetings from Juba, South Sudan! I hope this note finds you in good health.
I was fortunate to be in Jalle, my birth home in February with many high level government officials from the area to attend the prayers and ceremony of the just retired Bishop of Bor, Nathaniel Garang. For those of you who have been to Jalle, the area is very much occupied and it is full of tukuls (traditional huts).
Majority of the residents just returned from refugee camps in the neighboring countries where they have been living during the war period. While they were in the camps, their children were able to go to school, but now that there is peace in Sudan, they are required to return to their ancestral country. The opportunities they used to have while in the camps are no longer available to them. The need for schools are very high.
On a development note, I shared with the community about the school project and how their participation is very important, especially with financial contributions. The community unanimously agreed to raise money for roofing and they will continue to support us in any way they can. I also appeared on Sudan Radio Service (SRS, South Sudan Television (SSTV) and on BBC Africa. Thank you all for your continuous support of Rebuild South Sudan–please continue helping.
Below is a picture of me when I was interviewed by the Sudan Radio Service.
JAN.10/2011, SSN; A long awaited independence of southern Sudan from northern Sudan is approaching. Celebrations are already underway even though the polls do not open until Sunday, January 9, 2011. It is clear that the people of southern Sudan will vote for separation from northern Sudan. However, even though independence of southern Sudan is the choice of the people, it is not the ultimate solution to southern Sudan’s problems.
Problems will continue to occur between the two nations. Fears and speculations are already circulating about the formation of a new nation. Countries supporting the south becoming its own nation have expressed concern that southern Sudan could be added to the list of failed states in Africa unless the international community participates in development, especially building infrastructure and training present leaders and citizens in good governance.
Considering the legitimacy shown by the regional government in southern Sudan, one can see indications that the southern Sudanese are able to govern, provide their own security, and build their sprawling economy in the coming years.
In this article, the writer wishes to explore what is next after the independence of southern Sudan is established and how the citizens of this new nation could best participate in nation building.
Since the civil war started in Sudan in the 1950s, the people of southern Sudan have maintained hope and determination regardless of the political, economic, and social marginalization by the north. Peace and unity have been given enormous priority in the last five decades by the south but lack of political will on the part of the north has resulted in the split of the country.
As the countdown begins with the results of the referendum voting being announced in early February, southern Sudanese must begin to think about building their new nation. Like any other nation that has recovered from war, southern Sudan has a critical opportunity to legitimize itself as a functioning and viable state.
“Nation building” is a generic term that “refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. This process aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation-building). The legitimacy and functionality of a state is measured by the state’s capability to provide security, education, health, infrastructure, and maintain the citizens’ civil and democratic rights. The stability of any nation is centered on its ability to provide security for its citizens. All of the security sectors in southern Sudan have been transformed into conventional units that are ready to provide this level of security. This ability was made possible through the assistance provided by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the international community.
Development is the foundation of any nation. The level of development in any nation varies from place to place and is based upon the cultural environment. It is connected to the land in which people are residing and how to make use of the local resources of that area in a productive manner. This section of the article discusses development in an economic perspective.
The generic definition of “development” is an increase in national income per capita and an increase in the number of people in the nation’s population with sustainable growth from low-to-a growing modern economy. Southern Sudan is the richest region in the continent in terms of unprocessed resources. But in accumulated wealth, it is one of the poorest in the world. The people of Africa have different worldviews about development. The term development is understood by many Africans as the building of skyscrapers and the provision of humanitarian projects. The number of years spent depending on foreign humanitarian aid has impacted the way in which Africans perceive development. Dependency on outside support systems has had deleterious effects on southern Sudanese citizens. Success is a product of hard work and sacrifice.
Citizens’ participation in the development of south Sudan
The importance of citizens’ participation in nation building can be seen in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. The government loosened its powers by delegating responsibilities to the grassroots organizations and local governments. If southern Sudan is to be a viable and peaceful nation, it needs to look at the model used in Rwanda and apply it to its current population in the south. People are the custodians of their own problems. The government should be the guardian that provides resources and protection to solve those problems.
In 2001 when the “lost boys” went to the United States, they worked diligently to raise awareness of the challenges facing the nation as a whole. In part because of this educating, the United States government has stood firm in its promise to help the people of southern Sudan. Over the years, the Sudanese Diasporas have contributed economically, politically, and diplomatically to the government of southern Sudan. Power cannot be measured by the position you have, but by what you can produce and do for your country. This is nationalism.
Many projects have begun in southern Sudan since the CPA was signed and these projects are evidence that the people of southern Sudan are ready to begin building their new nation. Over $7 million dollars have been raised and invested in a variety of projects in the south by the Sudanese Diasporas. In this regard, involvement of the media is crucial as well as making sure that there is the inclusion of all taking part in this nation building process. When President Kiir has come to the United States, he has received overwhelming support of the southern Sudanese living in the United States. This exhibition of support has led the U.S. government to have greater trust in Kiir’s leadership in Juba.
Dependency on external ideas
Western credentials, ideas and advice are highly regarded in Africa, often before any credence is given to ideas offered by the African people themselves. There is no question as to how much the west has helped African countries in terms of economic development and education but what works best in western culture may not yield the same results in Africa. Economics is tied to political culture and the political climate of a given society. The western economics paradigms work in the western world because of their political and cultural resonation with the people. For decades the developed world has tried to sell their economic agendas to the Africans and most of these attempts have ended unsuccessfully.
Lack of trust among Africans themselves is a major deterrent to the development of Africa. I am embarrassed to write that my young government in Juba is the number one recruiter of foreign workers. Many of the private secretaries in the government ministries are foreign employees. The reason behind their recruitments is because with their higher education it is presumed that they will build stronger relationships between their governments and the government of southern Sudan. Even jobs that southern Sudanese meet the qualifications for are often not given to the southern Sudanese. Their ideas and skills are being ignored. If it is believed that western education can offer much in building capacities in southern Sudan, then it would be best to make use of those southern Sudanese who have received their education in the U.S. People see the government as an island and the government officials doubt the capacity of their own people.
The United Nations and other non-government organizations working in Sudan are very expensive. Much of the money given to these NGOs for development projects is used for salaries which leave much less for the goals of the projects. The lack of cultural understanding and misinformation as to what the needs are can end up in corruption. The empowering of community -based organizations with resources so that they can be in charge of development could create an environment for much more successful growth.
“Taking of Towns to the villages” (vision of Dr. John)
The vision of our late hero Dr. John Garang when it came to an economic strategy was to take the towns to the villages. The idea is to avoid migration of people from their localities in such for services in the modern cities. Having resources and services available in the villages would diminish economic dependency on foreign governments and on the working class in the cities. This would result in resources costing less if people were able to remain in their villages. Transformation of an agrarian economy into an industrial economy in a transparent manner will help speed development and growth in what will be the newest nation in the world.
Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder and Executive Director of Rebuild South Sudan. He can be reached at: email@example.com
By Michael Kuany
The largest country in Africa, Sudan has over 578 tribes, each with its own unique culture. These tribes are based in geographical regional locations, and many have seen gradual shifts in their cultural heritage over the years. However, the region of southern Sudan is still known for its cultural distinction. In this article, I attempt to investigate the cultural role of women and its impact on the development of southern Sudan. I will also analyze the impact of culture on women to determine whether the enforcement of cultural norms on women ever violates their human rights, and to identify what is required to positively impact the future of southern Sudan and her women.
Women in Sudanese culture
In general, southern Sudanese women from rural villages are treated as second-class citizens. They do not hold roles of authority or any esteemed significance in their families or communities. They are obligated to marry a man chosen by the family out of the dowry system, a system that treats women as a commodity to essentially be bought or sold. Rural southern Sudanese women have no voice regarding their own rights, and are unable to participate in any major decision-making process regarding themselves or their families. In these male-dominated cultures, women are to be submissive and subservient to their family-in-laws and to their husbands. In some tribes, such as those in the Dinka and Nuer regions, women are regarded solely as a source of income for the family’s benefit. Rarely is the importance of designating resources to send a wife or daughter to school to receive an education considered.
The impact of civil war and resettlement
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi, Kenya, ending the decades-long civil war between northern and southern Sudan. Since that time, southern Sudanese culture has faced upheaval as a result of the resettlement of Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Kenya, as well as in the western world where they sought refuge. Although the civil war in Sudan had tragic consequences in the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, its aftermath has also brought a new worldview to those who fled and were thus able to go to pursue an education regardless of their gender. Those who settled in urban areas or in the United States were introduced to societies in which women are treated very differently and in which relationships between men and women or husband and wife involved the sharing of power, responsibility, and decision-making. Southern Sudanese women who resettled to such locations experienced the positive outcomes of education for themselves, their children, and their families. Perhaps for the first time, they were able to recognize the cultural traditions that had previously violated their human rights.
The twenty-one year long civil war in Sudan forced the people of southern Sudan to examine their cultural traditions and to compare them to those of the countries where they sought refuge. Women in particular began to consider their future differently than they ever had previously. For example, in rural southern Sudanese culture, women are expected to obey their fathers in regards to arranged marriages, with the threat of physical violence including beatings, rape, or abduction accompanying any perceived or actual disobedience. In sharp contrast, those southern Sudanese women who fled to other countries discovered cultures in which a woman would not be coerced into marriage but could marry a man of her own choosing. Similarly, the present role of the southern Sudanese village woman is to see to the care of the children and elders of the extended family, to provide all of the upkeep for the home and day-to-day life, and to manage food production. If a woman was able to find a way to generate any extra income, the funds would go directly to the needs of the family. It was never conceived that a woman’s role could vary from this.
Interestingly, southern Sudanese women who have somehow been able to attain an education are highly regarded, even by the men who live in rural villages. Such women often come from well-to-do families who can afford to provide for them a quality education. They are able to hold government positions, be gainfully employed, participate in decision-making, and can be seen in leadership roles that have an important effect on the future of their country. This is critical to take into account when considering the following.
The future of southern Sudan
In January of 2011, a referendum will be held in southern Sudan in which a vote will be taken regarding whether or not the north and south will be united as one nation or if the south will become its own independent nation. Although the referendum is only in the planning stages, it is already plagued with problems. On April 11, 2010, the country conducted a multi-party election for the first time in twenty-four years. These elections were intended to be held in a fair and corruption-free manner. What resulted was a situation in which over 350 parties vied for government positions, resulting only in more division and the re-election of the incumbent president.
Still, it is most likely that the people of southern Sudan will vote overwhelmingly for southern Sudan to become an independent country, and it is imperative that this new reality be accompanied by a cultural shift in which women are made active participants in creating a modern society. A critical component of this shift involves education. Education will enable the men and women of southern Sudan to embrace a broader worldview and it will encourage women in rural villages to advocate for the education of their children. For even now, southern Sudanese men are recognizing the positive impact of women’s education on the social and economic betterment of family’s lives. Although it may take time for widespread acceptance of these changes to occur, change is needed.
For validation of these cultural changes, one can look to the changing role of women in the United States throughout the twentieth century. The role of women shifted from one in which women were responsible primarily for staying at home with their children and taking care of the household to a whole new paradigm in which women were empowered to use their intelligence, gifts and talents outside the home setting. With the women’s movement, women were encouraged to seek higher education, to be trained for jobs outside the home, to demand basic human rights such as the right to be paid what a man is paid for the same job, to have equal decision-making power in marriage and child-rearing, and to seek positions of leadership in the world of business and government. Today, first world nations realize that they need intelligent women to contribute and lead their nations if they are to complete in the world economy.
This same cultural change is needed in southern Sudan if it is to become a country that competes in the global economy. Women in southern Sudan must be educated so that their natural gifts and talents can be nurtured and so that they will be able to obtain the skills needed in professions of their own choosing. Their expertise in a variety of professions will only contribute to the social and economic development of both the rural villages and urban areas in their new country. It is my belief that southern Sudan desperately needs to enact laws that protect women’s rights and that ensure the rights of all women to receive an education. This will be a crucial development in determining the future of southern Sudan.
Southern Sudan is a nation with incredible natural resources. But holding onto tribal cultural traditions regarding women’s roles in rural villages will result in the sacrificing of a vital resource, a resource that may prove to be the most essential if competition in the world market is desired. Whether or not southern Sudan will be able to enter the global economy and succeed in the development of its people depends to a large extent on the empowerment of her women.
Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is a president of Coalition of the Willing (COW). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org