- ABOUT US
When Guymon experienced an influx of African immigrants, the town welcomed its new residents by launching a vibrant yearly festival.
By Holly Wall
Published May/June 2016
Fidele Lual was not yet a teenager when he heard the whir of helicopters overhead. It was the first sign that the Second Sudanese Civil War had, four years after it broke out, reached his rural village of Majak.
The war lasted from 1983 to 2005, echoing a conflict in the country that began in 1955 and ended in 1972. The conflict pitted Sudan’s northern and southern regions against one another in a battle over power, resources, and religion. The Dinka, a major ethnic group in southern Sudan, were one of many populations killed by the thousands during the second war. Militias even targeted children, who routinely were murdered or taken as slaves. To survive, Lual, along with hundreds of other Sudanese children, fled South Sudan for the cover of the African bush. The exiled youths, who were mostly male, became known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.
The Lost Boys, ranging in age from seven to seventeen and eventually numbering in the thousands, walked for months across Sudan until they reached the country’s eastern border with Ethiopia. They subsisted on what meager food they happened upon or were given. They contended with the elements, wild animals, and militias.
Many of the Lost Boys died. Those who survived found their way to makeshift refugee camps in Ethiopia, where they lived for many years before political conflict in that country forced them to return on foot to Sudan. At a crossing of the Gilo River, many drowned. Others were murdered by waiting militias. Some were killed by lions.
Rather than settle in the still-warring Sudan, Lost Boys walked to Kenya, where they lived in refugee camps. In 2000, the United States began to resettle nearly 4,000 young South Sudanese refugees in this country, only eighty-nine of whom were female.
Lual arrived in the U.S. in 2001, at age twenty-six—fourteen years after his original displacement. He lived in Atlanta for seven years, working as a janitor, before one more journey brought him to Oklahoma.
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Get There: Azuma: An African Celebration is 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, August 14 at the intersection of Fifth and Main Streets in Guymon. (580) 338-6246 or mainstreetguymon.com.