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A Snapshot of Survival from the World’s Newest Country

On one of our first days after arriving in Juba last fall, former US Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios, photojournalist Lucian Perkins and myself sat down with Acuil Malith Banggol, a former political officer with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the rebel force in southern Sudan. He explained why southern Sudanese no longer wished to be part of Sudan, about how the Dinka, Nuer and other peoples of the south had been marginalized and persecuted by the authorities in Khartoum for three decades. Almost in passing, Goi mentioned that his son, Ring Banggol, had actually been a slave for six or seven years. Intrigued, we later tracked down Ring, now living in the South Sudan capital, and listened to his amazing story: As a young boy, growing up in Wau, Ring was kidnapped by a militia group and taken into captivity in northern Sudan. He was forced to work tending goats, under threat that his Achilles tendon would be cut if he attempted to escape. He received regular beatings from his masters before he managed to get away. Today, Ring is a tall, strapping young man who loves to play basketball and wants to study economics at university. On Saturday, he will become a citizen of the new country of South Sudan. If all goes well—and peacefully—he will at least have a fighting chance of achieving his dream. Ring’s story is one of three told in a short video created by Perkins during our visit last fall to assess conditions on the eve of independence. You can watch the video below: