History of the Lost Boys

Colonialism Creates Sudan

North Sudan and South Sudan were originally two separate independent nations existing side by side.

North Sudan was and continues to be populated by Arab Muslims, much like Egypt, their neighbor to the north.

South Sudan was and continues to be populated by black Africans who are Christian or other indigenous religions. Some of the darkest and tallest tribes in the world live in South Sudan, the largest being the Dinka tribe.

The two countries existed side by side peacefully until 1886 when the British colonized “the Sudan” combining both nations into one colony in order to use their combined resources for the advantage of Britain.

At this point Britain hired Egyptian mercenaries to control “the Sudan” for them, equipping them with weapons and military training.

Britain Leaves A Mess

In 1954 when Britain decided to end their colonization of ‘the Sudan” they were urged to replace the original border between South and North Sudan, but they did not.

As was predicted North Sudan was given weapons and military training by their Muslim Egyptian brothers in order to take control of all Sudan.

North Sudan was then able to control all the resources in all of Sudan for their own benefit. They built roads, schools, universities, hospitals and became a developed nation.

South Sudan remains, even today, an undeveloped nation. Very little electricity and hardly any safe water. Over 80% of South Sudan has had no access to education or healthcare.

North Sudan has modern buildings and clean water and electricity. South Sudan has mud huts and women walking all day to carry water from contaminated rivers to boil for their families.

Sudan Declares Sharia Law

In 1985 life became even worse for the Southern Sudanese when North Sudan de- clared Sharia law. This meant everyone in Sudan, North and South must adhere to the Islam religion.

The Southern Sudanese people refused to become Muslim. The North Sudanese enlisted the help of the people of Darfur. They equipped the Darfurians with horses and AK47s. They told the Darfurians that as their “Muslim brothers” they are a part of a jihad, a religious war. This was unusual because up until then the North Suda- nese did not see the black African Muslims of Darfur as their equals.

The Darfurians were told they could invade Southern Sudanese villages and take whatever they want by force. The cattle, the woman and girls as slaves BUT they must not leave any boys or men alive. The North Sudanese did not want there to be a generation of South Sudanese to survive and fight back. This was the beginning of the genocide.

The Attacks Begin

The attackers became known as the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed would encircle the South Sudanese villages made up of grass roofed huts and begin fires that would burn in towards the village. As the villagers would run out from their burning village the Janjaweed would shoot or capture them.

The Jangaweed would try to capture the women to become their slaves and they would slaughter the men and boys.

The South Sudanese began to tell their boys to run at the first sign of an attack. They were told “your dad will protect the family it is your job to survive so RUN!”

Little boys as young as 5 would flee and see their villages burn to the ground behind them. When the smoke settled the boys realized they were all alone.

The Lost Boys Long Walk Begins

Traumatized and alone they began to walk to find help. They would find other little boys and take care of one another. Eventually there would be groups as large as 100 boys and they began heading east away from the trouble coming from Darfur to the west.

They kept each other encouraged and alive as they faced starvation, dehydration and animal attacks during the months of walking thousands of miles.

Many boys died along the way and their young friends would have to bury them. It was devastating but still they persevered until they made it to a refugee camp in Ethiopia where a journalist dubbed them the Lost Boys of Sudan.

The Lost Boys Life In Ethiopia

The 27,000 boys who survived the long walk began to set up small communities of boys taking care of one another. They shared in the chores of making the huts and the food and carrying water. Eventually schools were formed under the trees and they learned the alphabet by writing in the dirt. They were eager to learn so they learned to read and write quickly with the help of aid workers at the refugee camp.

Their time in Ethiopia is a fond memory to many Lost Boys. But it was not to last long. The Ethiopian government that had accepted the Lost Boys was overthrown by a coup that was supported by the North Sudanese.

Attacked Again

The new Ethiopian government at the urging of their North Sudanese allies attacked the refugee camp on the edge of the Gilo River. They began shooting into the unarmed camp. The boys were forced to cross the deep, wide, torrent river filled with crocodiles or else they would be shot. Over 5,000 Lost Boys died in this attack.

Those who survived were forced to cross back into South Sudan where where they were chased and attacked by North Sudanese militia using Anatov helicopters and AK47s. Many boys died along the way but miraculously 16,000 boys survived and eventually made it to Kenya to the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Hard Times in Kakuma Refugee Camp

Although the boys were safe from attacks by the North Sudanese, life in Kakauma Camp was not easy. Food rations were minimal and the boys often went without eating for days. They could not leave the camp, they were confined to this desig- nated area. They were not able to hunt or make a living, they simply had to wait for rations to arrive. The years dragged on and life began to seem hopeless.

Hopeful Opportunity

But in 1999 the United States decided that the Lost Boys could apply for refugee status and begin the process of coming to the United States. They had to go to interviews and classes in order to be eligible for resettlement in the United States.

Over 3,000 Lost Boys have been resettled in the U.S. since 1999. Many Lost Boys who had been educated in the Kakuma Refugee Camp began to dream of bringing education to their homeland of South Sudan.

One such group of friends was resettled in the Midwest. They began to meet on a monthly basis to discuss the importance of education for a free South Sudan. Eventually they began to ask their American friends to help them. In 2008 this group of Lost Boys and Americans formed the 501(c)(3) organization now known as Lost Boys Rebuilding South Sudan.