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To escape from Sudan, end up in San Diego, and to go back with dreams

Love well

When Dep Tuany arrived on a drilling rig in the impoverished Sudanese village of Boriak, hostility lingered thick in the air. The village held roughly 1200 refugees living in grass and wood huts. They had recently returned from camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. A local chief had just been killed by one of the larger tribes in the region, and his people were rallying to execute the offending tribe’s chief in retaliation. Though he hadn’t been in Sudan for 17 years, Tuany recognized the chief who was scheduled to be slaughtered. He used to wage war on Tuany’s village in neighboring Maiwut County. He was responsible for the death of Tuany’s friends and family.

“The community leaders said, go to the village where the chief was killed,” says Tuany, one of the first southern Sudanese refugees to come to San Diego in 1991. “They have nothing. Now they are filled with anger. They want to kill people. The well may be good enough reason for them not to retaliate.”

In a village where the people walk over eight hours to retrieve unclean water daily, a freshwater well is a godsend. Tuany went the next day and, two days later, hit water. He called the tribes together at the site of the borehole and said, “Look at it. Now I am coming from a faraway distance. Before I get to my village, and knowing that you also killed my people, you guys have the first well.”

The people of Boriak were filled with guilt and said, “We are not going to do anything. If we were fighting, for sure we could not get this drinking water.”

Pleased with their decision, Tuany told them they would be used as an example so other tribes would stop fighting. The village, just days earlier on the brink of war, exploded instead with celebration. People came from all around and danced, slaughtered goats, and showered Tuany and his team with beer, wine, and chickens.

“It was one of the most beautiful wells I can remember,” Tuany recalls. “Look at the beauty of having clean water bring forgiveness between the community themselves. Is it good to retaliate? Or is it good to forgive?”

When Tuany and his team left, the villagers asked when he would return. The well was capable of providing 200 gallons a day, but unfortunately, it was not nearly enough. When Tuany later returned, the population of the village had grown to about 2000.

The celebration at the next site was similar. Upon striking water, Tuany and his team were given a lamb by the village chief, which they planned to slaughter in the morning. While it was staked in place overnight, the lamb was eaten by a hyena. In the morning, the overjoyed chief gifted them another lamb, in addition to firearms, to defend themselves against animals and vandals. Their third stop was Maiwut County, where Tuany’s mother lived. He hadn’t seen her in 21 years. After drilling 80 meters into the earth, the crew hit water. Tuany’s mother was the first to drink from the well.

Tuany first returned to Sudan in December 2008 and spent several months driving Water for Sudan’s (A Rochester, New York–based nonprofit organization) $290,000 drilling rig from Mombasa, Kenya, to southern Sudan. He purchased supplies in Uganda along the way. Tuany reached Sudan in April 2009 and was able to drill two wells (only one of which struck water, in Malek) before being forced to stop by May rains. The wet season was in full swing, and many roads became impassable. He stored the equipment for his next trip, which came in February 2010. Water for Sudan’s rig was being used in another area, so Tuany hired a Russian contractor to drill the wells in Boriak, his hometown, and surrounding areas. Each borehole cost $15,000 and there was no guarantee of hitting water. Of the 15 planned boreholes, Tuany and the contractor were able to drill seven. Only three struck water. Over 260 southern Sudanese villages still lack access to clean water.

“Sometimes, when I see the time coming for me to return from Sudan, I don’t want it, because I need to give more,” Tuany says. “But there is no way I can give more because this is it. I don’t have enough. I have to leave.”

Tuany, 47, wears a black suit and speaks softly as he shows me around the Southern Sudanese Community Center in City Heights. The center was founded in 1995 to assist refugees of the second Sudanese civil war with the transition to life in San Diego. English, Arabic, computing, and domestic lessons are among the free curriculum offered to the community, which peaked at about 5000 people in 1998 and now counts between 1000 and 2000 people, Tuany estimates. Over 30,000 South Sudanese have sought refuge in the United States since the war broke out in 1983.

The center moved into its current City Heights location on Polk and Fairmount, a former public library, in December 2006, after 11 years at nearby Presbyterian, Latter Day Saints, and Seventh-day Adventist churches. The words “Kuben ke mal” are written over the reception desk — “Welcome in peace” in the language of Tuany’s Nuer tribe. A lion painted on the wall proudly guards the entrance.

“The lion welcomes you,” Tuany says, smiling. The computer lab walls are adorned with murals, photos of livestock and villagers in southern Sudan, and art projects from Sudanese children. A poster reads, “Women, your vote is your voice,” urging women to take part in the January referendum to grant southern Sudan independence from the north.

In the next room, a volunteer named Quincy acquaints herself with a sewing machine for the new weekend sewing classes. The center is run entirely by volunteers such as Quincy.

“If you have anything at all, you have to give back to the community,” the San Marcos woman says. “It feels good to give back.”

A portrait of Dr. John Garang de Mabior, the original leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, overlooks the room. A banner next to the Sudanese flag reads: “‘Would you like to be a second-class citizen in your own country? It’s absolutely your choice.’ — Dr. Garang.”

Tuany and the current executive director of the community center, Chuol Tut, organized a carpool of several personal and church vehicles for the January 9 referendum vote. The closest polling center was in Phoenix, Arizona, and saw 149 San Diegan southern Sudanese refugees choosing between symbols of two clasped hands for unity and one raised hand for secession. As only 15 percent of southern Sudan’s 8.7 million people can read, the icons were used in place of words at both U.S. and Sudanese polling centers.

On February 7, it was announced that southern Sudan would become an independent nation on July 9. The referendum passed with a 98.83 percent in-favor vote after a six-year cease-fire (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement), following over two decades of civil war that devolved into all-out genocide against the south. Sudan’s second civil war officially began in 1983 with the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, a rebel group that fought for a secular, democratic Sudan against the Arab Muslim capital of Khartoum. The conflict has left an estimated 4 million displaced, an estimated 200,000 in slavery, and 2 million dead — one of the highest civilian death tolls since World War II.

The first civil war began in 1955 after British colonists left Africa and, at the urging of northern Sudan, lumped two inherently incompatible cultures into one nation. The war lasted for 17 years and claimed the lives of half a million people, including Tuany’s father. Only one in five were armed combatants. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. The conflict ended with the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, but the underlying religious and racial tensions were never addressed, much less resolved. The second civil war is seen largely as a continuation of the first, aggravated by disputes over the nation’s rich oil resources, which now account for about 70 percent of Sudan’s export profits.

George Bush Senior initiated a hunt for Sudanese oil in 1974, just two years after the Addis Ababa Agreement had decreed that the north and south would share the nation’s resources equally. Then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bush, after analyzing satellite maps, suspected that deposits sat beneath Sudanese soil. In 1978, Chevron found large oil fields in the south. By 1980, Khartoum was attempting to redraw its borders in order to annex oil-rich areas to the north. By 1982, Sudanese army soldiers and the government endorsed murahaleen, nomadic Arab horsemen, were massacring southern villages with machine guns and burning them to the ground.

“The legacy of war will still stay with us for some time to come,” said Salva Kiir Mayadrit, the president of southern Sudan and the current Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement leader, at a press conference in the southern capital of Juba in February; he was wearing his trademark black cowboy hat. “But let us not forget to build our own country after all these long years of war and instability. We must protect the new nation and never, at all cost, take it back to war.”

A decree read by the minister of presidency affairs, Bakri Hassan Salih, on behalf of northern Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup and institutionalized Sharia law on a national level, reads: “We declare our acceptance of the southern Sudan people’s choice, and we pledge to work for resolving the outstanding issues and build constructive relations between north and south Sudan.” The International Criminal Court announced ten criminal charges against al-Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest in 2008. A second arrest warrant in 2010 bears the added charge of genocide. Regardless, al-Bashir remains the president and leader of the National Congress Party in Khartoum.

Sudan is home to about 42 million people, including 597 tribes speaking over 400 dialects and split into two major ethnic groups — the primarily Muslim/Arabic north, and the African animist and Christian south. Roughly the size of France, southern Sudan is among the poorest regions in the world, with only 30 miles of paved road. Around 17 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. Although 85 percent of Sudanese oil (about 500,000 barrels a day) comes from southern Sudan, the oil and revenue have historically been piped to the north via more than 1350 miles of Chinese-built pipeline, leaving the south in squalor. China has provided arms to the north to protect their investment, fueling the bloody conflict. The 2005 Comprehensive People Agreement decreed a 50/50 split in southern oil profits, a figure that is liable to change pending negotiations after the referendum, which will focus largely on the oil-rich region of Abyei.

Tuany’s words are deliberate and his accent distinct as he talks about the problems facing the recently liberated people of southern Sudan. The horizontal creases across his forehead, which at first appear to be enduring furrows of concern, are actually traditional scars from the Nuer tribal coming-of-age ceremony. They were cut into his forehead with a knife at the age of 13.

“It is a beautiful, vast land with natural resources,” says Tuany, who lives in Spring Valley with his wife and seven children, “but it’s missing the best thing in the world, which is drinking water.”

Tuany, a mental-health aid at a hospital in Point Loma, has made two return trips to Sudan to drill wells for war-torn villages in the south. He plans to return in 2012 to drill several more. Like many in San Diego’s southern Sudanese community, his story is one of courage, perseverance, and obstacles overcome.

At 16 years of age, Tuany had been working as the assistant manager of an oil-production center in Khartoum for about a year when the violence preceding Sudan’s second civil war broke out. Much of Sudan’s Muslim community, which accounts for about 70 percent of the population, felt a renewed hostility against southern Sudanese African Christians and traditional animists after a series of raids conducted by the rebels, who would later be known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Tuany and his family fled for refuge in Ethiopia with a group of about 20 others in 1981. The two-month walk southeast to Ethiopia was ridden with hardships. The threat of lions and adversaries meant much of the travel was spent running and hiding in the brush.

“We were hungry most of the time,” Tuany recalls, “eating whatever we could find.”

Like many others over the course of the long walk, his one-year-old son, Wichieng, became sick with an intestinal illness caused by the unclean water salvaged from puddles. After three days of fighting the illness, the infant died. When the group finally arrived at the refugee camp in Itang, western Ethiopia, they numbered nearly 500. The camp offered little education and many died due to the unsanitary conditions. In seven years, Tuany reached a seventh-grade level of education.

“My dream was to educate myself in the city,” Tuany says. In 1988, he went to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, with his wife and children. He was educated to the ninth-grade level before being told to return to the refugee camp. The city did not have sufficient funds to support him.

“I saw there were no new things I could learn from the camp,” Tuany says. “When I lived there, it was a place where you just sit and don’t do anything. No education. No health care. There’s nowhere to go. My only blessing in that refugees’ camp was for me to know the word of God because the church became the educational institution where I could go in, read the word of God, and see the difference it can make.”

Tuany was told that, if he didn’t want to go back to the camps, he could go back to Sudan, where the civil war raged on. Returning meant joining the revolutionary soldiers to fight against northern Sudan.

“It didn’t reach my spirit so well,” Tuany says. “I did not want to go and kill and be killed.”

“Don’t do anything that will disturb our life,” Tuany’s pregnant wife advised. “Let’s go back to the refugee camp.”

They decided that she and the children would return to the camp, while he would make the dangerous passage to the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

“My four-year-old son was very close to me at all times,” Tuany recalls. “Every time I went out of the house, he came. And he wanted to know where I was going. I didn’t want to tell him. In the night, I tricked him. I told him I was going to go take my shoes out. But still he followed me. So I forced myself to run between the buildings, and he was crying so hard. I come back around the building to see if he was inside the house. And I go in the room until he calmed down a little bit. And that strong emotion he has from the crying forces him to go to sleep at around seven at night. And I said, ‘Now is the time for me to go run.’”

Suspecting that neither the Ethiopian nor Kenyan border guards would allow them to pass, Tuany and his childhood friend William Tut went. They arrived via bus at midnight at the Ethiopian city of Moyale near the Kenyan border. “I told my good friend, let’s be open. Let’s tell the truth. If somebody didn’t like it, we are not Ethiopian, we are Sudanese. We are going to Kenya.”

When they were approached, Tuany did most of the talking because his English was better. “I said, ‘We are going to Kenya because we are refugees, we have no place in Ethiopia, we have done no crime. Will you let us go?’ They said, ‘Okay. You go.’”

After sleeping briefly between a police station and a garbage truck, they attempted to cross the border but were detained by Ethiopian guards. They were put in jail for two weeks without any food besides red tea. They became weak and could not walk. Finally, the guards allowed them to exchange their clothing for food. One night, the window of the jail was left open. “Why don’t we jump out the window and run?” Tut proposed. Tuany refused.

“If we jump out the window, the police outside will shoot, and we will lose one of us, even if some others make it over the fence.” In the light of the morning, they saw that the window dropped into a moat of sewage and insects. That day, a guard told them they would be going on a truck to Addis Ababa.

When they were taken to leave, they decided to confuse the guards by running through the buildings and into the bush. They lost their captors and traveled through the jungle to the top of a mountain. Looking down at the wall between Ethiopia and Kenya, they planned their route. “We were just brave enough not to be scared of a trap. The area is full of snakes and animals. I could not believe we made it out of that place.”

Tuany and Tut emerged on the Kenyan side late at night. They slept, and in the morning were awoken by the Kenyan police and again put in jail. They were interrogated for a week about why they had come. Tuany and Tut feared being sent back to Ethiopia, as they believed they would be tortured for escaping from jail. They were ultimately allowed to stay due to UN laws requiring Kenya to harbor refugees. They were transported from the border to Nairobi, where they reported to the UN office. They were put in a refugee camp and wrote their families letters telling them they had arrived.

Although others at the refugee camp told them they would be arrested for approaching the American Embassy without permission from Kenyan immigration, Tuany and Tut went to the Embassy in Nairobi to request passage to America.

“We worried that when the Kenyan immigrations knew that we went to the American Embassy, they could do two things. One, they would not do anything and leave us alone. Two, they would send us to Sudan. Deported. I said, I am okay with either one of them. If I was not able to go to America, I would not have blamed anybody. I would go back and fight the revolution.”

However, their ambition paid off at the Embassy. “Someone stuck their head out the window and said, ‘What do you want?’ I said I wanted to go to America. And they said, ‘Oh, okay, go to the next window.’ So simply.”

The friends spent several hours filling out forms and, two weeks later, were called back. Fellow refugees were incredulous. Tuany and Tut were given UN identification cards. They became certain that they would be sent to America, though they didn’t know where it was.

“We were told we were going to San Diego, a place, where? We had no idea. The day when I left the country it was so tragic. To see a lot of people with mass movement into nowhere, in the field or jungle, walking long distance, no car, and you see so much destruction and disease and sickness, and no building and no school and anguish, and there’s no feeling like it — when you are running from something and you don’t know where you are going.”

Arriving at Lindbergh Field in January 1991, Tuany and Tut were the first southern Sudanese refugees to call San Diego home.

Adapting to life in San Diego was a process for Tuany. Daily tasks like shopping at the grocery store and riding the city bus were foreign. Catholic Charities, a local community-service ministry, gave him an apartment in City Heights. He got a job working at the Goodwill downtown and sent the majority of his earnings to his family in the Kenyan refugee camp. At one point, Tuany’s telephone, gas, and electric were cut off because he had no money left to pay bills. The utilities stayed off for several weeks. After a year, he bought a cheap car, which, having no license or training, he crashed after driving two blocks. He ultimately taught himself how to drive a stick shift in the zoo parking lot.

“Nobody showed me the way to the American Embassy. Nobody showed me how to drive a car. I learned on my own. Nobody ever said, ‘Just sit down like this.’ I used my own imagination.”

Tuany worked picking up furniture in a Goodwill truck for $4 an hour. He sent most of the money he made to his family, who followed to San Diego two years later. He put his children in school and enrolled in City College, working during the day and attending classes at night.

“I realized two barriers: being black and being uneducated. I told my children, ‘If you are not educated, you will find it difficult to live here. You better be educated, and then live with anybody, walk with anybody.’”

In 1995, in order to assist the growing refugee community, Tuany established the Southern Sudanese Community Center. He recruited volunteers from local universities to bring refugees’ education up to par with their peers. After speaking with Tuany, the Chancellor of UCSD offered a four-year scholarship to any Sudanese refugee who completed high school.

“We started simply to have a place to coordinate our problem. The number-one problem that we identified was the language barrier. Here we are living in a community where we are told to go to work. And when we go looking for work, you cannot pass the interview because you cannot speak, even though you can know how to do the work. It’s difficult.”

Adjusting to American culture was difficult for many families. In the typical Sudanese household, the man works and the woman stays home. Breaking from these roles resulted in hurt egos, depression, and domestic violence. Many were deported for abuse. In response, Tuany brought in pastors and counselors and organized his life as an example to the community.

“I started with myself. I said, if I have anything in my house, my wife will be a part of it. If I buy a car, I will put two names on it, so she can have access to it to drive or own it. It became a simple solution.”

Tuany received his associate’s degree in 1997 and took a job at Social Services, making $12 an hour. “That’s when I felt, yes, I am working in America,” Tuany recalls. Finding employment for fellow refugees so they could afford an extended education was his first priority. When someone in the community had a job interview, Tuany would drive them. He worked with the Alliance for African Assistance to find refugees employment on production lines, newspaper-delivery routes, housekeeping at hotels, and in casinos.

The community peaked in 1998 at an estimated 5000 refugees. Then, due to employment shortages and increased housing costs, many in the community relocated to Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia, Nebraska, Iowa, Alaska, and Washington, where rent was more affordable and work was readily available in meat factories, assembly lines, and casinos.

With the second generation of Sudanese-Americans, a new problem developed — competition between American-born and African-born children, which often led to violence.

“The American children are so different,” Tuany says. “They never saw the lifestyle of living in the camps or being in Africa.” Despite domestic problems, Tuany proudly reports that there has never been a Sudanese gang in San Diego. In one instance, a few kids were arrested for theft. Tuany helped them with their legal paperwork and had a talk with the children and their parents about what it means to be an American.

“I said, if you do it right, you will be the best kid in the USA. If you do it wrong, you will hate Americans forever, because a crime is not going to get away from you. And they understood.”

The children ultimately paid for their crime with community service.

In 2004, the Community Center qualified for additional funding through No Child Left Behind. As a condition, the center was required to open its doors to everyone, not just southern Sudanese refugees. Happy to comply, the center has since harbored students from most every community in San Diego. The center moved to its current location on Fairmount and Polk in 2006. The building, a nondescript Parks and Recreation facility, underwent a $70,000 renovation thanks to the La Jolla–based Price Charities. The Jacobs Family Foundation gave money to hire teachers and help struggling families pay rent.

“It became beautiful,” Tuany says. “I got a lot of support from all San Diego County.”

He invited City Councilwoman Toni Atkins and Congressional Representatives Bob Filner and Susan Davis to visit the refurbished building. “We let them know that we are part of the American community over here. We said, ‘Whatever you do for this community will affect us, so you better come see who we are — the numbers we have are huge — and whoever we like to vote for will have our vote.’” Davis pledged to help the Sudanese community and, in 2010, earmarked $95,000 for the center from the Labor-HHS-Education bill.

“The number-one drive is to educate the children,” Tuany says, “children who are likely to end up on the street, and then commit a crime, and fill up the jail. Now there is the place to take them out of the street, into this beautiful location where they can sit down and do educational activities. They have computer, they have reading book, they have tutor one-on-one. Their mindset is completely locked on educational activities. They have no other way to go out, you know. City Heights is a bad neighborhood. It became beautiful for all of us.”

Fulfilling his dream, Tuany’s own children ultimately surpassed his level of education. His oldest son studied economics at San Diego State University and now works at a car dealership. Another son studied mechanical engineering at the University of Buffalo and is currently pursuing his master’s. Another studies psychology at SDSU.

Following the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which put an end to Sudan’s civil war, pending the January 2011 referendum, many in the southern Sudanese community decided to return home.

“It had taken me 15 years in the U.S., never going home, and I think, ‘What agenda can lead me to go home?’ I like to go, but I don’t want to go and just visit and come back without doing anything.”

Undoubtedly influenced by the loss of one-year-old Wichieng, Tuany identified water as the first problem that would need to be solved. He began speaking at universities, Rotary clubs, anywhere he could.

“I do not want to be quiet. Everyone I met I would tell. If you know that somebody needs help and you are not speaking about it, who is to blame?” Tuany asks. “On certain occasions, I would go to a meeting and say, ‘How many of you know that southern Sudan has been at war for 21 years?’ Maybe about two or three people know out of 50. Then I ask, ‘How many people know of the Darfur crisis?’ And everybody would raise their hand. Two million people were killed and four million displaced in southern Sudan. And now, with four years in Darfur, everybody heard about it. Where did that missing information go? I said, ‘Look at me. I’ve been in a camp for 12 years, and you have no media to tell that we are dying here?’ It made me feel like, ‘Oh, man, nobody knows about this war.’”

Tuany connected with Water for Sudan, which to date has drilled 76 wells in southern Sudanese villages. In 2008, thanks to sponsorship from members of the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, Tuany returned to Sudan for the first time in 17 years.

His strategy for placing wells goes as follows: upon arriving in an area, he asks to meet with the tribal leaders and they discuss the best locations for wells. When all the leaders reach an accord, he drills. If the borehole is a success, a concrete platform is poured around the hole and an animal fence is put up. A placard bearing the name of a sponsor is placed on the well. The community appoints caretakers to maintain and repair the well. Tuany encourages the community to build a schoolhouse next to the well. In short order, people come from great distances to live near the wells. They build houses. Markets, restaurants, churches, and businesses form a town center around the wells.

“People have a community again,” Tuany says.

Right now, Tuany’s surplus well piping sits at the storage yard in the southern city of Malakal, awaiting his 2012 return. He anticipates help from the government with security and community development but not money. He says they are focused on establishing their political system and law enforcement. They may begin building the new nation’s infrastructure around 2012 but will still rely heavily on people like Tuany, who have the necessary skills and initiative to bring the country up to speed. Thomas Nyang, a refugee living in Escondido, has built schools for over 450 children with the help of the Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club and donations given to New Solutions Community Resource Center. He plans to return to Sudan this summer.

“Now is the time that every Sudanese dream becomes a reality,” Tuany says. “What they have been fighting for has been achieved. It is in the mind of every Sudanese to go back for real development. The country cannot finance itself alone. So, for me, I want to be a part of that development in the communities that are returning from the refugee camps.”

In order to actualize this dream, Tuany founded the nonprofit Nu-Water International, based out of a Carmel Valley office space donated by the Md7 cell-tower company. The name is a nod to his people, the Nuer. Tuany’s goal is to raise $150,000 to drill ten wells when he returns in 2012. He has split peacefully from Water for Sudan, which is focusing its resources in the southwest of southern Sudan, in order to target the northeast of southern Sudan. Nu-Water International depends entirely on donors to fulfill its mission.

In addition to drilling, he is looking into using reverse-osmosis membranes manufactured by Toray Membrane in Poway to provide purified water from the Nile for as many as three villages. The membranes are capable of turning seawater potable and have been used around the world at resorts, in industry, for flood relief, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.

“The Nile water is sweet, better than here even,” Tuany says, “but it is full of bacteria.”

Bacteria are not the only danger lurking in Sudan’s water. The Guinea worm disease is contracted by swallowing fleas that live in water. The flea carries parasitic larvae, which reproduce inside the human body after about 100 days. The infection goes unnoticed for about a year as the growing worms migrate throughout the body. A person only becomes aware of the infection after the worms bore their way out through the skin, usually on the tops of the feet.

Tuany also wants to return agriculture to the fertile south by teaching the people to make use of irrigation for cotton, peanuts, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, tapioca, mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sesame. He envisions finding foreign agriculture companies to invest in the country and employ Sudanese workers to farm the land. Sudan is rich in natural resources, including gold, iron, ore, copper, zinc, tungsten, manganese, salt, and mica — most of which remain untapped due to the region’s history of social upheaval.

Government officials in southern Sudan have unveiled a $10-billion plan to rebuild major cities in the shapes of fruits and animals, in order to attract investors. Blueprints for the southern capital, Juba, appear from an aerial view as the shape of a rhinoceros. Others proposed outlines include a giraffe and a pineapple. Despite these lofty aims, Tuany’s work is far from done.

“I want to do the best I can,” Tuany says. “I don’t want to say I went for two years in a row and now that mission for me is done. No. I want to continue until those who are still suffering have access to clean drinking water.”

What’s next for southern Sudan, which will be known as South Sudan, Africa’s newest and 54th country, after the July 9 Independence Day?

“It will be a democratic country,” Tuany says resolutely. “It will be a place where people practice their religion freely. It will be a developed country.”

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I am a local designer & founder of a non profit designers4africa. Dep & I drove to LA a few years ago where he was a guest speaker at a big fundraiser & Henry Rollins was so taken with Dep that he offered to come down & do a fundraiser for local refugees here.

Dep & his lovely wife are an inspiration to all who meet them.

Thank you for this story.

april s davis

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