Lost boys can finally return to their country

Donnella Collison

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






He is tall but unassuming and his walk can only be described as a cool stroll. His long legs and arms move easily and gracefully, uncommon for most people of his stature.

As he stood to the side of the room waiting for his turn to speak, with his arms folded, he scanned the crowd, all the while maintaining a slight smile. If he was nervous, it was impossible to tell. Maybe it was a smile of happiness or simply a show of content and even gratitude. Who would imagine that this calm persona could speak of terror, devastation and atrocities not known to many, yet incite unity and inspire action of all forms? Behind his face, lay memories of the unspeakable, even for him.

The man in question is 25-year-old Atem Ajok, a political science major of Edward Wood College in Jacksonville, Georgia. He assumes he is about 25 years old. Ajok is also one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and was on CSUN’s campus during African Student Organization’s Africa Week on Oct. 19 to talk about his experiences.

The Lost Boys of Sudan refers to the young men and boys from southern Sudan, who walked miles in the night to escape the killings that took away many of the boys’ families. Ajok described walking through thick sharp vegetation in the night and being viciously scratched by the plants. Walking at night is the only chance the Boys have of survival, since the night and thick shrubbery provide natural camouflage for the children. To describe the length of the walk is a task too difficult to put into words. In short, it was a 1,000-mile journey from Sudan to Ethiopia, by foot, over less than ideal terrain. After spending two years in an Ethiopian refugee camp, the boys relocated to another camp in Kenya by once again trekking through Sudan. He spent 14 years in the camp before coming to the United States.

Ajok became a Lost Boy after returning home from the fields one day, to see smoke rising from his village. He said he assumed the smoke was from the fields since it was harvest time. As he entered his village, the scene that met him will forever scar his psyche. Everything and everyone was burnt to the ground. The only thing left of the people was their unrecognizable charred remains. Ajok thought his family was dead. Ajok left and became part of the walking caravan of children who like him, were suddenly orphaned.

Today Ajok is reunited with his mother and five brothers and sister. The family he thought was dead was actually one of the few people who managed to escape his village before the government troops ravaged it. Arab soldiers later killed his father because he refused to renounce his Christianity. Ajok’s mother managed to get the rest of the family to another refugee camp.

Ajok’s story may seem like one of tremendous sorrow and that he should be pitied because of his past. And it becomes easy for the listener to simply forget everything that was said later. On the contrary Ajok uses his position to incite action and not simple sympathy.

Throughout his speech, Ajok urged the crowd, “Let us not be silent. What we would remember more is not the death of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Ajok is still in love with Africa and is proud to be African. He said his goal here in the U.S. is to get an education and go back to Africa.

“I am very proud of who I am and no one can take it away.”

“It is hard for me and my colleagues to accurately portray what we went through and what is going on because of the painful memories.” For him, silence is not an option.

According to Lako Tongun, also a speaker at the Oct. 19 event, the civil war that drove Ajok and many others like him from their country, ended in January 2005, only to be replaced by the Darfur conflict, in western Sudan. The two wars have many things in common, most importantly the genocide of Sudanese people by the government of the time. Both wars can be characterized by murders of thousands of people by the hands of a greedy, treacherous government who want to steal the valuable land of their victims. China and Russia are the two biggest supporters of the villainous regimes that continue to plague Sudan.

In the end, that Thursday accomplished the goals ASO President Marvin Boateng hoped to achieve.

“To have objective speakers educate the campus about what is going on and to stop genocide,” Boateng said.

Despite all the atrocities that Africa has gone through, it is not a place where only bad things happen, but a place full of love, life, culture, diversity and potential and in Boateng’s words, “There is still a lot of hope.”