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14 S. Sudanese Chosen for Obama African Leaders Program

FILE - President Barack Obama answers questions from participants after speaking at the Young African Leaders Initiative's Mandela Washington Fellowship gathering in Washington, Aug. 3, 2015.

Fourteen people from South Sudan will take part this year in the Young African Leaders Initiative, begun in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

The participants depart for Washington next month. They will travel to American University and other college campuses for a six-week program to learn business entrepreneurship, civic leadership or public management.

The 14 South Sudanese will join hundreds of others selected across Africa to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the African leaders initiative. The goal of the fellowship program is to empower young people through academic course work, leadership training and networking so they can help develop their own communities back home.

Chris Meade, public information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Juba, said the seven men and seven women were selected from 380 South Sudanese applicants.

“This is actually the first time they are meeting each other ... and these 14 we selected are truly leaders in the field in NGO leadership, in business entrepreneurship, in public management,” Meade said.

All participants are between 25 and 35 years old. None has been to the United States before.

Gaining expertise

Fellow Bena Mark, 30, who works as a physiologist at the University of Juba, said she hoped to interact with lecturers and others taking part in the program. She said she was looking forward to expanding her expertise as a young leader in public management.

“I am working in a public university, so it is going to be vast," Mark said. She said she hoped to learn "more about leadership in different professions and in different institutions.”

Maout Luise, 27, an advocate for the rights of disabled people, said he expected to acquire more civic leadership skills in order to improve his work in South Sudan.

“I will get the necessary inspiration ... and I will also try to compare how the U.S. looks like and where South Sudan is," said Luise, who is education secretary at the South Sudan Association of the Visually Impaired. "But also I will come with motivation that what I am doing here in my country is right.”