In May 2007 filmmaker, Jen Marlowe and journalist, David Morse accompanied the southern Sudanese “lost boys” back to their homes. In 1987 they were forced to flee from Sudan as children because their villages were attacked. Jen Marlowe, the award winning filmmaker of Darfur Diaries, speaks with Jerry Fowler about the current political landscape of southern Sudan and the connections to the crisis in Darfur. Samuel Mayoul Garang, one of the “lost boys,” highlights his experience as a refugee living in the United States, his reunion with his family after 20 years of separation, and his future plans to start a school in southern Sudan focusing on health care and education.
JERRY FOWLER: Joining me today are Samuel Garang Mayoul, and Jen Marlowe. Garang is a refugee from Southern Sudan, who is one of the so-called “Lost Boys,” children driven from their homes during the two decades long war in Southern Sudan, who endured an odyssey that took them to Ethiopia, Kenya, and for many, ultimately, the United States. The boys have grown into young men, and Garang recently returned to Southern Sudan, accompanied by Jen, who is an award winning filmmaker, working on a film about the Lost Boys, under the auspices of a grant from our friends at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Garang and Jen, welcome to the program.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Thank you.
JEN MARLOWE: Thanks for having us on.
JERRY FOWLER: Garang, let me just start. Can you give us a sense of, well, how old you are now, and how old you were when you became a refugee?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Actually, I am 25 years old now, but I don’t actually know how old I was when I was in Ethiopia camp, when I was in Kakuma, Kenya, until I found out from my family actually how old I was.
JERRY FOWLER: Do you have a sense of how long ago it was?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: What? Say that again?
JERRY FOWLER: A sense of how many years ago it was that you, that you left your family, that you fled?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL:Yes. Probably I was around six or, about six-five years old, when I left. I was born in 1982.
JERRY FOWLER: What led you to flee from your home?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: It is because of war, civil war in Southern Sudan.
JERRY FOWLER: And was there a particular incident that caused you to leave? Was there an attack on your village or was it general insecurity
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: There were actual mortar full attacks that night, night and days, in the village, that I actually left, flee with my dad, and leaving other family, actually, at that time. I left with my dad to Ethiopia and my half-brother to Ethiopia, and my dad died in Ethiopia in 1987.
JERRY FOWLER: Now, when you say you went to Ethiopia, can you give us a sense of how long did it take for you to get from where you were in Southern Sudan to Ethiopia?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: It was about 12 months to get to Ethiopia, and walk and walk.
JERRY FOWLER: You were walking?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: We were walking, yes, we were walking.
JERRY FOWLER: Wow. And where there, you mentioned you were with your father and your half-brother. Was it just the three of you, or were there other people from --
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: There were other people, many actually were, a big group, group of people walking together.
JERRY FOWLER: I know ultimately you ended up in Kenya. How was it that you came from Ethiopia to Kenya?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I came, left Ethiopia, because there were actually political issues, actually, I mean, like that cause a war in Ethiopia between the government of Ethiopia and rebels. That is actually attacked the camp, and we play actually, I mean, Ethiopia, back to Sudan from Pochlla to Kenya, Kakuma, yes.
JERRY FOWLER: I am sorry, there were attacks on the camp that you were living in, in Ethiopia?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yes, there were actual, refugee camp where actual the Ethiopian government, all the rebels clear out the camp, the refugee camp where we were, because there was fighting in the country, that later, you know, leave the country.
JERRY FOWLER: And so then again, when you were going from Ethiopia to Kenya, were you walking again?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: We were walking, actually. We went, we came to the border Pochlla that’s, it is Sudan border between Ethiopia and Sudan. A town called Pochlla. We came there like three months, three months later, there were attack from Arabs, so we move again from Ethiopia, I mean, from Pochlla to, Kapotea. It is another town, actually, in Sudan. Then from Pochlla to Kakuma, Nairus, from Nairus, we were just moving like weeks, weeks and days, weeks and days, from town to town.
JERRY FOWLER: And what would you do for food, when you are moving?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: The UN helped bring the food for us. The UN.
JERRY FOWLER: And what year was this, that you had to go from Ethiopia to Kenya?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: That was 1992.
JERRY FOWLER: Okay.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL:1992.
JERRY FOWLER: So you spent a number of years in Ethiopia.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yes, four years in Ethiopia, before I moved, before I fled from Ethiopia back to Sudan.
JERRY FOWLER: So then when did you come to the United States.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I came to United States in 2001, May 2001.
JERRY FOWLER: And, well let me ask first, where in the United States did you go?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I came to Chicago.
JERRY FOWLER: Did some other refugees come with you, or did you, did you come by yourself?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Many boys came that time, were about 90, see under the 92 Sudanese lost boys on board, and then the other peoples on board.
JERRY FOWLER: And --
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: To Chicago, 16 of us there came to Chicago, but the majority actually land in, New York, and they probably, went to different state. But majority lived in New York when we came to New York. Then 16 of us came, from New York to Chicago, where this was all in Chicago.
JERRY FOWLER: So, I’m sorry, how many were in Chicago with you?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: 16 of us, in the plane, that went, at the time it came, yes.
JERRY FOWLER: And did you live together in Chicago?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: No, we were sent to different towns. So, World Relief took us to Elgin, this town in Illinois.
JERRY FOWLER: So that must have been very difficult for you. You were basically on your own all of a sudden, in a very, very foreign place
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: At that time, I actually was lucky to find, some host family that live with me for, more than half in Elgin before I moved to my own apartment.
JERRY FOWLER: And then when you moved to your own apartment, you were living by yourself, or did you have a roommate?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Some roommates, Sudanese friends, Sudanese lost boys.
JERRY FOWLER: Oh, I see. How was the United States different from what you expected?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Actually, at first it was different because of, at the time we arrive to the states, there were a lot of snow and very cold place.
JERRY FOWLER: Had you ever seen snow before?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I have never seen the snow, so it was actual kind of different environment, too, to arrive in new place. And it was really chilly, a lot of snow and really a lot of cold. And we also came to different, also different and like culture shock, different, actual, different culture, actually came in when we first came here. It was hard for us actually to get along with people because of actually the culture, but I feel eventually we just get used to making friends and we were okay in the state.
JERRY FOWLER: How did you find people in the United States? Did you find people that were interested in your story?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Well, the first place, they were the World Relief church organization. The different churches, actually, to welcome us, for the first month away in camp, so we were in different towns, different churches, different sponsors were just taking care of us, for the meantime, while we’re getting our free jobs, to get jobs.
JERRY FOWLER: And did you find the job pretty quickly?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yeah, it took me about a month, actually, to get a job. My first job was working with the UPS, for UPS. That was my first job, it was like part-time. I was going to school and work part-time in the evening.
JERRY FOWLER: And was there ever a time where you felt that you wished you were back in Kenya?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: When I, when I came to the U.S.?
JERRY FOWLER: Yes.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: We just actually talk to people back in Kenya when we settle here. Our friends who didn’t get a chance to come here. He called the process where I just, when they call your name you can just come, then the first to interview just came to U.S., and then it come like that, until September 11, got more of the boys not to come here, but -- anyway they actually - Many people came before I came, and so it was like that, we would communicate with people back in the camp, helping them if we get anything like money, we can send some money back to them, in the camp.
JERRY FOWLER: But if you were talking to people, and they asked you, “Should I come to the United States or should I stay in Kakuma?” what would you say to them?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I usually tell them come to the U.S., actually, I mean, there is a grand opportunity. It is, the, might, difference from, between America and Kakuma camp, you can get a better education here. You can get a good life, like when you work, you can support yourself. If you go to work, you can be able to get money and, and support yourself and go to school at the same time. It is not like the camp where you go to school there is never, no education in the camp still, a lot of hungry people, they are starving, no, not enough food, and a lot of diseases in the camp. So, I would really encourage them when I was talking to my friend, that when you guys have your interview, it is good to come here and, and stay in America, and then have a good life, go to school, actually, and have a good life, at least.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, Jen, let me bring you into this conversation. First, can you give me a sense, what’s the project that you’re working on? How is it that you got hooked up with Garang and some of the other refugees? And what’s the story you’re trying to tell?
JEN MARLOWE: Well, the way I got hooked up with this project was last December, I was having coffee with a journalist named David Morse, and he started to tell me that he had met one of Garang’s colleagues who’s in Syracuse, New York, Gabriel Bol Deng, who had also, had lived with Garang in Kakuma and also had come in 2001 to the U.S. And Gabriel Bol had been telling David that he and Garang and a third colleague, named Koor, were going back to Sudan. And it was going to be a journey both of discovery, what happened to their villages, trying to find their families, what happened to their families. Also, a journey to discover how they could contribute back to their communities in Sudan, and especially in the sectors of education and in health. And David was going to accompany them as a journalist to cover the story. David was aware of my previous film, “Darfur Diaries,” and he had been talking to the young men about whether this story was something that merited being filmed. Not just the story of the three young men, but the story of what is happening now on the ground in South Sudan. So, they invited me to go along and, and I very enthusiastically said yes, because it sounded to me like a very important story to be told, especially the piece of it of, of what is happening now in the south, what is happened since the signing of the peace agreement, and what the future looks like.
JERRY FOWLER: And let me pursue that a little bit. We have talked on this program, from time to time, about the fact that there was a long war in Southern Sudan that was resolved by a peace agreement in 2005. As you mentioned, you have done a film on Darfur, you spent time in Darfur, and now you’ve just gone to Southern Sudan. Can you compare the two regions?
JEN MARLOWE: Yes, I have actually been, I have thought a lot about that, both when I was in the South and since I have come back. There’s a lot of talk about rebuilding the south right now, now that there has been a peace agreement in the south. When I was in Darfur, you got the sense that you were seeing places that had recently been destroyed, you were seeing people that have had education, have had healthcare, have had some kind of resources in the past that had been stripped away from them. In the south, they never had those things, or if they had, it is been so long ago, it has been decades, since there has been any kind of development in the south, any kind of education system, health system, roads, infrastructure. So, I think we have to talk about, related to Darfur, ending the violence in Darfur and rebuilding the region. And south is a question of starting from the zero point and building from nothing, an infrastructure, roads, healthcare, education, starting from absolutely nothing.
JERRY FOWLER: And let me turn again to you, Garang. You were very, very young when you left, as you said, five or six or so, and it’s been, what, some 20 years. What was it like for you to go back to Southern Sudan?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Well, I have a feeling actual going back home to see the families, it has been a long time, but I love my family, and I have not seen them. So, I would like, last way I felt and I’ve gained my first view I feel like, everything just going back to Sudan and see my own family. So I can be able to meet the family, to find my own family.
JERRY FOWLER: And did you find your family?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: I found all my family, yes.
JERRY FOWLER: And, for example, your mother?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: My mother, my brothers and sisters.
JERRY FOWLER: And this the first time that you’d seen them since --
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: That the first time in actually 20 years.
JERRY FOWLER:Just describe how you felt.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yes, I was really, lot of emotion, I was really very emotional, I was crying when I met the family, actually, the first day I went to Lang, our village. So many people who just came and, who now, yes, actually overwhelming by situation, people that really, the people are really very, I mean, very weak people, do not have anything to eat. And I, when I see them, actually I always, I just, I just fell in tears.
JERRY FOWLER: Now, Jen mentioned, your interests and your other refugees interests in contributing back to the community in terms of education and healthcare, what is it that you hope to do?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Are you talking to me or Jen?
JERRY FOWLER: No, no, to you Garang.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Okay.
JERRY FOWLER: What is it that you hope to do in terms of education and healthcare back in your community?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Well, actually the program that we are doing, Jen and I, together Koor, Bol and David to begin with one us that actually she will, we are going that we could like open a school, family school in Sudan, health education. I mean, healthcare, of like people do not have clinics at home, in the villages. They don’t even have a school, go to school and -- you know? So, we’re trying to establish a school and healthcare at home. That whole plan, actually, apart from building the family, what we are seeing and what we are finding to deal with, actually, to go and see the family and be able to establish a school and healthcare at home.
JEN MARLOWE: And if I could just add, that Gabriel Bol, the young man who was in Syracuse, he has actually started an NGO called HOPE for Sudan, which HOPE is an acronym standing for Helping Offer Primary Education Sudan. So, these guys, these three young men, have already taken a lot of concrete steps towards realizing their goal.
JERRY FOWLER: And HOPE for Sudan, does it have a website?
JEN MARLOWE: It does, and I should have it on me, but I don’t. I think it is hopeforsudan.org, but I can - is it possible for me to send that to you, and then you could link to it on the description of the podcast?
JERRY FOWLER: We’ll certainly link to it. And I’m sure that if people Google for HOPE for Sudan, it should pop up.
JEN MARLOWE: The website is under construction right now, but there is a domain name and I wish I had it in front of me.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: In addition, that I have seen at home, too, especially in our villages, where they don’t have water, no good water to drink, so I also have a feeling that if I, we create some money, probably it will go back on an established water system at home, the water pumps at home, at our villages.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, let me ask you this, maybe you first Garang, but Jen also. The peace agreement was signed in 2005, and in talking to other guests on the program, the general picture that emerges is the implementation has been very slow. But what is the mood of people on the ground, civilians, people who are trying to live from day-to-day? Do they have a sense of optimism, that things are getting better, or a sense of frustration, or a sense of pessimism? What’s the mood?
JEN MARLOWE: Garang, you want to take that one first?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yes let me go first, and then if I left anything, you can just add. According to our organization, actually has been the first time that I went back home in 20 years, so what I have seen, we have talked to many people, the elders, the elders of the community, the people in the government, then especially people in the community, lost a lot of their, lost of frustration at home. They felt that government is not doing anything, and they felt that nothing could help them right now at the moment. That what I have seen at home, especially. Seen there are no clinics, no good school, no good-- I mean, no good water, no food, not food for home, at home to eat. They felt frustrated that, or if peace is signed ,but it is still -- nothing has changed.
JERRY FOWLER: And who do they blame for this? When you say the government, there’s the government in Khartoum, but there’s also a new government of South Sudan that’s run by the former Southern Rebels.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Yes, they are blaming actually the government of Khartoum, and also blaming the new government, the Southern government, that they do not do anything, but still it is the government that actually came from scratch, from nothing, that, and there is no system of rule, actually at home, nothing is really messed up at home. It has been nothing, it has been anything good, as you will seen in the people’s eyes, people are – the government still is trying to do everything, but not yet, nothing actually have been accomplished at the moment.
JERRY FOWLER: Jen, did you have anything to add to that?
JEN MARLOWE: I would, and but before I do, I just want to say, I found what the website is for HOPE for Sudan, and it is www.helpofferprimaryeducation.org
JERRY FOWLER: help offer primary education
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: dot org
JERRY FOWLER: dot org
JEN MARLOWE: Exactly, and I very much would echo what Garang said, the peace was signed in January 2005, and people expressed a great deal of frustration that there have not, they have not seen any dividends of that peace. There has not been, aside from the ending of hostilities, for which people are very appreciative, there has not been any kind of tangible development, especially in the rural areas, especially in the villages. And the level of frustration about that is mounting. You asked before about connections between the south and Darfur, one connection is that, you know, for the first couple years of the Darfur crisis, one of the reasons why it was not being covered, no one was paying attention to it, was that there was so much focus on the south, because it was right at the time leading up to the signing of the CPA, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. There was a lot of investment from world powers to make sure that nothing scuttled that deal, that that agreement got signed. The agreement was signed, eventually the spotlight has shifted over to Darfur, and now there is a focus on Darfur, which is very important, but the south has been left completely in the dark. If the comprehensive peace agreement, that the international community helped so much make -- supported so much, the signing of this agreement, if that is allowed just to wither, and if the south is allowed in darkness and silence to slide back into a state of civil war and violence, the results will be disastrous for all of Sudan, including Darfur. And one of the best things that we can do, those of us who care about Darfur, and who care about the protection of human life all over the world, and in Sudan, is to make sure that the agreements that are signed, are honored, are supported, that are monitored. And the south has really been left without those things. Generally speaking we need to stop looking at these things in isolated spotlights. In some ways, the spotlight now has moved from the south to Darfur. It is not about saying “Take the spotlight off of Darfur and back onto the South,” it is about removing the spotlight and replacing them with floodlights.
JERRY FOWLER: Floodlights for all of Sudan.
JEN MARLOWE: Exactly. And all the region and I would argue that it is connected to so many other atrocities happening worldwide, that we need to look at these things not in isolation, but in how their connected with each other.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, we are running near the end of the time that we have. Let me finish with you Garang. I know, or I understand you have been wrapping up your associates degree. What are your plans for the immediate future?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Right now, actually I’m planning to do, a business management, when I’m still doing it at my undergrad, at the University of Illinois.
JERRY FOWLER: So study business management at the University of Illinois?
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Management, business management, yes.
JERRY FOWLER: Well good luck to you.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Oh, thank you.
JERRY FOWLER: Garang Mayoul, as a refugee from Sudan, one of the so-called “Lost Boys,” and Jen Marlowe is an award winning documentarian, who is working on a film about Southern Sudan. Garang and Jen, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us.
JEN MARLOWE: Thanks for having us on the show.
SAMUEL GARANG MAYOUL: Thanks.
NARRATOR: You have been listening to Voices on Genocide Prevention, from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. To learn more about preventing genocide, join us online at www.ushmm.org/conscience. There you’ll also find the Voices on Genocide Prevention weblog.