Sudanese 'Lost Boys' in US, men now, look homeward to new nation
With South Sudan poised to be a new nation, 'Lost Boys' living in US hear a call to return to their homeland to help rebuild it.
Dominic Deng Diing, a South Sudanese refugee who ran from his burning village at age 6 and now lives in Buffalo, N.Y., says he finally feels ready to go home – for the first time since he fled in 1987.Skip to next paragraph
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“The time is right with this referendum,” says Mr. Diing, referring to the January vote promised in the 2005 peace deal between the Sudanese government and southern rebels that ended decades of civil war. The referendum revealed an overwhelming preference to divide Sudan into two nations, granting independence to the autonomous southern government that has operated since 2005.
Driven by familial obligations, nationalism, and a desire to help strengthen the new country’s foundation, many of the 26,000 South Sudanese now living in America say pending independence has brought the moment they have been waiting for.
“I feel I must go and stand where our house was,” says Diing.
Since the referendum, about 50 people each week have contacted the Government of South Sudan Mission to the United States and the United Nations in Washington, D.C., seeking help processing paperwork for their returns.
“People are so happy and want to go and contribute to nation building,” says David Choat, the mission’s UN and congressional affairs officer. “The government has been calling for the diaspora to return. Now that the war is over, we need different skills, not only fighting skills.”
Most reaching out to the mission are educated men like Diing, who holds a master’s degree in business. Many of the fathers and husbands who have called are prepared to leave their families behind in the US, says Mr. Choat. Almost all of the callers who have approached the mission are men, says Choat.
“As it is in our culture, women here are taking care of the kids and are the centerpiece for the families, but the men can work far away from home and it is not a problem.”
Clement Chan, a father of four, plans to move to South Sudan once he completes his business degree. He expects less competition in the job market, but knows that his current home of Manchester, N.H., remains a better place for his school-aged children.
“When I visited Sudan two years ago it was still difficult, but I thought I could live there. It wouldn’t be so for my children,” says Mr. Chan. “I saw people still drinking from the rivers, not having enough food, not enough education. That is my home, but my kids have not been exposed to a situation like that and it would be hard for them to live like that.”
Why It Matters: With southern Sudan separating into its own nation, expatriates, mostly men, see an opportunity to return and strengthen the homeland they left behind. Sudanese families living in the US face learning how to bridge two worlds and prepare again for long periods of separation.