James Garang had to leave his home in southern Sudan at the age of 10 when a civil war broke out in the country in 1983.
“About 2.5 million people were killed and 7 million were displaced both internally and externally,” Garang said. “Four million were displaced externally.”
Sudan has faced two major civil wars in the late 20th and 21st century, including an ongoing conflict in Darfur, Garang said at the White Rose Society’s Human Rights Symposium on Monday.
Corrupt politicians split the country into south and north. The northern region was given access to more economic resources while people in the south suffered extreme neglect from 1955 to 2003, when the civil war ended, Garang said. The army had the power to unleash horror upon Sudanese citizens if they rebelled against government policies.
It took Garang three months to reach the Ethiopian border safely, where he received education for three years before undergoing military training. After a civil war broke out, he fled back to Sudan only to be attacked by the Sudanese government troops in the southern Sudanese village where he was living.
Finally, he reached Kenya, where U.S. delegates decided to bring 3,000 men like him to the United States in 2000. During the conflict, the militia killed people and wiped out villages indiscriminately.
“They [would take] a lot of people and put them in a house and set it on fire,” Garang said.
Sometimes, they would tie people to running horses and watch them die or dump dead bodies in the wells so that people wouldn’t be able to drink water.
Garang said he often wonders why the world looked the other way while all this was going on. He encouraged students in the U.S. to become more involved in spreading the word about what’s going on in Darfur.
African history professor Oloruntoyin Falola said people like Garang help mobilize efforts against genocide.
Looking at the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda, we must realize that the situation in Sudan should have never happened, Falola said.
International relations sophomore Lauren Guerrant said it is hard for people to relate to atrocities happening far away from their homes.
“I did a project about Darfur, and it is something that people really need to know about,” Guerrant said.