Could you imagine your personal story if it included being kidnapped, witnessing hundreds of murders, walking barefoot for a thousand miles, evading gunman and aerial bombing from militias, or traversing fields of corpses as your only path for survival? For the Lost Boys of South Sudan, this was a daily experience during the Civil War from 1983 to 2005. The Second Sudanese Civil War defined and nearly decimated generations of villagers who carried no weapons and posed no threat to the marauding Arab militias from North Sudan. Mr. Paulino Chol was the leader of several hundred Lost Boys of South Sudan during this time. This book is Mr. Chol’s odyssey from tragedy to triumph.
The Lost Boys of South Sudan spent much of their lives running from kidnapping and death. They evaded relentlessly, and well-armed Murahalin militias kidnapped, persecuted, and murdered tens of thousands from the Lost Boys. After a journey of over three thousand miles on bare feet, Mr. Paulino Chol was the leader of nineteen to seven hundred Lost Boys from the Pinyido refugee camp in Ethiopia and the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya from 1988 to 2004. The Lost Boys endured unspeakable starvation, aerial assaults, and other mistreatment and walked through fields of corpses during the Second Sudanese Civil War.
Experience First Pages
A menacing specter tormented South Sudan from 1983 through 2005, and I met it on many occasions. It rode on horseback at sickening speed and drove trucks with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on the back. It could fly Antonov-manufactured (Russian) bombers, and it left smoking craters filled with blood. It strapped ammunition over its shoulders, running through our villages while its Kalashnikov rifles cracked the air. It created fear as dense and as ominous as a duststorm. It detached parents from children and widowed wives. At times, the torment crept in as quietly as the hot midday breeze. Yet there were nights when you could hear its brutality moving in from a distance—the horse hooves on baked dirt and the whine of engines racing toward you.
While the ominous clouds of war continued to hover over us in the late 1980s, depleting us of food, water, and willpower, we continued on. South Sudan was and still is in a heated battle against oppression from the North Sudanese government. Their continual assault on our country depleted us not only of resources but also of strong leadership. Like a toxin poisoning the water supply, the ongoing war also exposed the inherent deficiencies in South Sudan’s ability to form lasting and comprehensive leadership at all levels. Our own problems contributed to our weakness. The war-wounded us deeply, but it was the ongoing infection from that wound that kept us from moving forward. Whether it was failing government policies or the fading strength of village communities, the problems seemed to stemfrom the same roots.
It was the worst of times when the Lost Boys were recruited into the Sudan People’sLiberation Army (SPLA) to fight while they were underage. It was the worst of times when the Lost Boys were forced to work for free for others, and soldiers were killed in front of them in the Pinyido refugee camp. It was the season of darkness and winter of despair when the Lost Boys were beaten to death in the Pinyido refugee camp, Pochalla County, and the Nairus refugee camp from 1988 to 1992. It was the spring of hope when Second Lieutenant Deng Manyiel kept defending the Lost Boys’right not to work every Saturday and Sunday in the Pinyido refugee camp.
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It was a dark night, with only occasional scattered lights, glittering like stars on the plain. It flashed upon me suddenly: they were going to shoot me!