What Has Happened to the World’s Newest Republic?
After decades of nightmarish violence, the new predominantly Christian nation of South Sudan declared independence with United Nations supervision and help from such celebrities as George Clooney -- and thousands of former refugees known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan." But now, violence rages once more.
If anybody ever deserves peace and security, it is the terrorized tribal Africans of South Sudan.
The world first learned of their plight in the 1990s, when thousands of boys between the ages of seven and 17 began arriving at refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda telling tales almost too horrific to be believed.
More than 20,000 in all, they became known as the Lost Boys of Sudan – orphans of a complex civil war that was difficult for outsiders to understand. It was more than the Sudanese government fighting a rebel army – more of a battle between tribal warlords, small-time religious thugs and psychopathic gangsters who forced children to become killers.
The kids told horror stories of watching their rural villages being savagely destroyed by fast-moving, murderous militia who were often high on drugs and blood lust. The boys told of escaping death only because they were out watching their families’ goats when their villages were attacked. They told of hiding in the underbrush and watching as their parents and siblings were terrorized, tortured, raped, maimed and murdered by crazed raiders who then stole all the food and burned everything that remained of the village.
Together, the boys walked thousands of miles across Africa to refugee camps. Many died during the trek from disease, hunger, victimization by rival tribes, and animal attacks.
In 2001, the United States allowed roughly 3,400 of the boys to resettle here.
Their stories are heartbreaking. In Nashville, Paul Joseph tells of wandering across the devastated countryside with friends – nobody older than nine. They scavenged for food, took up with older boys – 12-year-olds – then set off for refugee camps in Uganda. En route, they were captured by a violent militia which forced them to become soldiers and raiders. Joseph denies ever killing anyone, but says he became a firearms instructor, teaching the younger boys how to shoot and maintain AK-47 assault rifles.