Story Publication logo May 24, 2007



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Gabriel Deng, Koor Garang and Garang Mayuol, Southern Sudanese "Lost Boys" in the U.S., were forced...

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Multiple Authors

Jen Marlowe, for the Pulitzer Center

We sat in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) office in Nairobi as minutes stretched into hours, awaiting our permits to travel into South Sudan.

A line from the movie I had watched last night on the plane traveling from London to Nairobi kept running through my mind. The movie was "Blood Diamonds"; the line was delivered by Leonardo DiCaprio: "TIA," he told a journalist, as his means to explain the brutality and bloodshed of the Sierra Leone civil war. "This is Africa."

We weren't supposed to have to wait for our permits—we had made connections in advance to the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) mission in Washington DC and had sent all our paperwork to the office in Nairobi over a month in advance, with assurances that the paper work would be done and our travel permits would be waiting for us—it would only be a matter of picking them up.

11:00am turned to noon, and then to 2pm, then to 4pm, when we discovered that two of our passports had been misplaced. "TIA," I thought to myself. "This is Africa."

Although we only checked two items off of our to-do list today, (the GOSS permits and purchasing a satphone), other, important things happened. The three Lost Boys whose story we are documenting saw old friends of theirs from Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya, where they lived for ten years before coming to the US. Much of the SPLM office in Nairobi is staffed by former residents of Kakuma Camp. We had a long discussion with the officer responsible for information and communication about the challenges facing the SPLM in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed by the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the SPLM in January, 2005—especially when there is little to no trust that the GOS signed in any kind of good faith and have any intention of upholding their end of the deal. He also spoke about how valuable the contributions of the Lost Boys to South Sudan are—the education, skills and resources they bring will be desperately needed in rebuilding the country, he told us.

So…tomorrow we try to obtain permits from the Kenyan Ministry of Immigration to visit Kakuma camp next month and get started purchasing medical supplies to fly into Akon, South Sudan. But first, later tonight, back to the airport, to retrieve the baggage that never arrived yesterday.

More to say, but internet is impossibly slow and I only have access for about four more minutes, which is how long it will take to post what I have written.


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