On January 9th, nine million southern Sudanese people will have the chance to vote on a referendum deciding whether to secede and split Africa’s largest nation in two.
The vote is the final stage of a peace deal brokered in 2005 to end the long-fought civil war in Sudan.
Many votes will be cast abroad – including some from voters in the Philadelphia area.
Malual DengDuot has his reasons for voting. “I don’t want to see another little boy go through what I went though,” he said.
DengDuot is a ‘Lost Boy’ – one of thousands of young men orphaned during Sudan’s civil war who resettled in the U.S. with the help of aid organizations.
He’s currently a graduate student at Villanova University. It’s important for southern Sudanese people to vote in this election, he says, because it is history in the making.
“Voting is a new thing for Sudanese,” he said. “People don’t even know how to do it.”
Well, to do it they needed to register — in Washington, D.C. Which, for those in Philadelphia, meant they also needed a ride. Enter Tim Horner of Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education. He and DengDuot arranged to bus as many Lost Boys they could find to D.C. to register.
“They ended up having two dozen lost boys on the bus and then there were other people driving in cars behind because the bus wasn’t big enough,” said Horner.
So, they had a ride. But what the Lost Boys didn’t have was documentation — papers to prove that they were actually from southern Sudan.
“Many times all they needed to do was mention the village in which they were born or their mother or their father or their uncles,” said Horner. “There were people down at the voting site who could say ‘oh yes, I know that man’ or ‘I know his uncle. So yes, he can register to vote.'”
Horner and DengDuot will run the bus service to D.C. again on voting day, January 9.
Listen to Marty Moss-Coane when she and guest Randall Fegley discuss the Sudanese vote on WHYY’s Radio Times.