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Sudanese-American Elected to US Public Office


Sudanese-American councilman-elect for Alexandria, Virginia, Mohamed Seifeldein.

The number of Sudanese-Americans holding elected public office in the United States has doubled – there are now two.

Mohamed Seifeldein won a city council seat on November 6 in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of the capital, Washington. He follows in the footsteps of Mazahir Salih, who was elected to a city council seat in Iowa City, Iowa in 2017.

Seifeldein, who prefers to be called “Mo,” came to the U.S. about 20 years ago. He was born in Sudan and grew up there during the civil war which culminated in South Sudan’s independence.

“I came here due to that situation, seeking a better opportunity and security and was fortunate enough to land here in the D.C. metropolitan area and I’ve been here since,” Seifeldein told VOA's South Sudan in Focus in an interview Tuesday.

Seifeldein says that when he came to the U.S., he didn’t speak a word of English, and it took him years of study and practice to learn the language and culture.

Fast forward two decades, and Seifeldein is not only a newly-elected Alexandria council member but a successful attorney who founded a law firm, Seifeldein and Associates.

He says it’s no secret that it takes a lot of money to run for public office, something he didn’t have.

Seifeldein says he raised the least amount of money of all the city council candidates in the primary, $9,800 to be exact, but still won.

“We had that struggle, we had no name recognition, and we also had the challenges of being a newcomer, and immigrant as well, but thanks to the Alexandria community, and a very organized, grassroots campaign, which mostly included foreigners, Sudanese, and other Africans as well,” Seifeldein told VOA.

Seifeldein says he wants to make sure immigrants have a voice in Alexandria.

“We’re talking about education for all, health care and just making sure the city is safe for them and that they have a voice,” Seifeldein said.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
     
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
     
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon

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