Rebecca Linder


The Puzzle of Child-Soldiers in a New Sudan 'Lost Boys' of Sudan Struggle as Referendum Goes Smoothly

They were child soldiers, killing for a chance at freedom. Now that southern Sudan's liberation is at hand, will "Lost Boys" be forgotten or honored?

Six days into southern Sudan's referendum, voting continues peacefully. Sudanese and international experts feared that any number of possible disaster scenarios would occur, but throughout the majority of southern Sudan, voting has exceeded all expectations. The required 60 percent participation of registered voters was met with three days left to go, and some districts are reporting 90 and 100 percent participation. The world has applauded the Sudanese for this tremendous achievement, but it is also time to look ahead to the challenges this new country will face.

Of the many possible things that could go wrong in a newly independent South Sudan many have been listed on GOOD and elsewhere: tribal violence, retribution against Arabs or Muslims living in the south, general corruption, and incompetence on the part of the southern government. But there has been little focus so far on another point of division in the soon-to-be independent south: soldiers who spent years, and often decades, fighting in the bush, and the refugees who fled.

The refugee and internally displaced persons population from Sudan's second civil war is estimated to be as high as 4 million. The "Lost Boys" are part of this generation—children who grew up in refugee camps, Sudanese nationals who may not remember their country. Many of these children, like the "Lost Boys" themselves, benefited from opportunities not afforded to those who remained in Sudan. They learned English while living in Kenya or Uganda. They had schooling and education, and received many of the protections of the international community.

Those who remained in southern Sudan have not been been so fortunate. While the hardships of being a refugee are nothing to be scoffed at, southerners who stayed faced atrocious conditions. Their cities, towns, and villages were shelled and attacked, changing hands many times between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army forces.

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