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History of the Lost Boys

Until the year 2011 (when South Sudan became an independent nation), Sudan was the largest country in Africa. However, long before that time, it was considered a divided country, separated by the predominate Muslim population living in the north and the predominate black Christian/Animist (those who practice tribal traditions) living in the south. Following Sudan’s independence in 1956, the British relinquished control of the country, in large part, to the Muslims of the North, considering them to be better educated and more suited for the task. The Muslims sought to unite Sudan as an Islamic nation, to which the Southerners, choosing to worship God in their own way, rebelled. Many other issues were also at stake, such as racial discrimination, territorial rights, and oil found on Southern land. Ultimately, a civil war erupted, which lasted over two decades.

Northerner sponsored militias frequently raided and destroyed villages located in the South, killing innocent men, women, and children. Many of the surviving women and children were captured and held as slaves in the North. Over two million people lost their lives as a result of this civil war and the famine that followed. Millions of others became displaced with no place to call home and no means of survival.

The Lost Boys of Sudan, so named by aid workers after the fictional characters in Peter Pan, became separated from their families at early ages following attacks on their villages. They walked in large groups for approximately three months before reaching the safety of refugee camps in Ethiopia. Many died along the way due to starvation and disease or attacks by wild animals and enemy militias. After residing in Ethiopia for approximately four years, civil war broke out in that country as well, causing them to flee once again to their war-torn country of Sudan.

Many died on that journey as well, especially when crossing the deadly Gilo River. Those unable to swim were swept away in the turbulent currents. Others were eaten by crocodiles, or attacked by hippos and enemy gunfire. The survivors remained in the bush of Sudan, hiding for approximately one-and-a-half years before making their way to the safety of the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. In all, they had walked over a 1,000 miles in search of safe refuge.

In 2000-2001, the United States government awarded refugee status to approximately 3,800 Lost Boys, of which approximately 150 now call Jacksonville, Florida their home. (You can read more about the history of the Lost Boys of Sudan in the book  “The Journey of the Lost Boys” by Joan Hecht).

On January 9th, 2005 a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the north and south (SPLM/A) of Sudan, bringing an end to one of the longest civil wars ever recorded. According to the CPA, the southerners would be given the opportunity to vote for separation from the north, following a six year waiting period. On January 9th-15th, a referendum vote was held, in which 99.47% of south Sudanese voted to separate from the north and form their own country.The Independence of The Republic of South Sudan was made official on July 9th, 2011.

It will be a long road to recovery for this war torn country; a road that has been paved with much sacrifice and suffering. World wide support will be greatly needed to assist with rebuilding efforts, humanitarian needs and advancement toward becoming an independent and successful nation. Many US Sudanese Diaspora are returning to their homeland to assist in the rebuilding process.

The people of South Sudan appeared to be drawing near to the end of their long journey, when in 2013 an inner conflict erupted and the people of South Sudan were forced once again to flee their villages and homeland. It is our hope and prayer that  an end will come to this newest conflict and that peace will finally be realized. God’s blessings.

For more about the history of the Lost Boys, read The Journey of the Lost Boy’s 

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Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan is a registered 501 C-3 Foundation EIN #59-3808251

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