When South Sudan becomes Africa’s newest country Saturday, the “Lost Boys of Sudan” will be celebrating the occasion with their fellow South Sudanese.
During Sudan’s 21-year civil war, thousands of young boys from mostly the Dinka ethnic group were separated from their families and forced to walk about a 1,000 miles to reach safe havens.
Mac Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who is studying environmental science at the University of the District of Columbia here in Washington, D.C., said even thought he did not support separation from the beginning, Saturday promises to be an exciting day for all South Sudanese.
“At first I just didn’t feel like to be in support of separation. But eventually it is a split, so I have to join the majority, and again, it’s going to be an exciting day, and I am happy to go forward,” he says.
Deng, who said he fought in the South Sudan liberation army, said he did not want a divided Sudan at first because he thought he fought for a one Sudan.
Southern Sudanese from the Dinka tribe take part in a rehearsal celebration for independence in the southern capital of Juba, July 5, 2011
“I was a soldier, and I was fighting for the freedom for all of us, liberation for the whole Sudan. But lastly, we decided to split. That wasn’t my thinking,” Deng said.
He said he and a number of other south Sudanese who had reservation about separation are ready to support the majority who voted for separation.
“Most of us are very excited, but there are some people like me who still disagree, but lastly we all come together at the end and we join the majority and it’s not about one person anymore,” he said.
Deng, who said he is from the town of Bor in south Sudan, said a lot has changed for him since he and other Lost Boys of Sudan arrived in the United States nine years ago.
“Being here is great. I’m the only one in my family in America getting educated, and looking back home, a lot of things have changed. We talk to people back home. We tell them that this is how life is in America and we should have the same thing over there,” Deng said.
He said even though the soon-to-be new country of south Sudan will face many challenges, he and other Lost Boys of Sudan are hoping that one day south Sudan will be like the United States.
“I tell them [his family in Sudan] that this is a peaceful place to be, although it is not peaceful to some other Americans. I send money sometime to my family, and I think our country should be like America too, even though there are political issues. Yes, that’s all we hope for, betterment for everybody,” Deng said.