19 Jan 2021


What Ails ‘Lost Boys’ Of South Sudan In The West?

"In Dimma, Panyudu, and Tharpam, they were also segregated and not allowed to mingle with adults. Remember, they were ages between 7 and 15, a critical time children need adults the most."

By Willy Mayom Maker

The so-called "Lost Boys" are increasingly becoming victims of Western countries. Some of them have already succumbed (may their souls rest in peace!). Others are in jails or mental institutions. Unknown numbers are languishing on the streets or abusing substances.

Many of my close friends and comrades are in these situations. The mighty Jesh el Amer—the ultimate survivors—are slowly but surely giving up the fight for survival.

"How can people, who had endured the hardest conditions imaginable during the liberation struggle, suddenly become hopeless in America?" the judgmental society may wonder. The answer to this question is a long story. But in short, the psychological injuries obtained during the liberation struggle have finally resurfaced.

Children learn facts of life (through observation) from parents, relatives, and any adults. But Jesh el Amer, who had trekked to Ethiopia during the liberation struggle, had left their parents and communities.

In Dimma, Panyudu, and Tharpam, they were also segregated and not allowed to mingle with adults. Remember, they were ages between 7 and 15, a critical time children need adults the most.

But they were not even allowed to visited residential areas where adult lived. Even boys who had relatives in the residential areas must seek written permissions (which were not issued) to visit for an hour or two. This social isolation has hurt them because children can't learn appropriately without seeing and copying from adults.

I'm speaking from experience. In Dimma, Ethiopia, we were about 7000 boys, all quarantined in the middle of the mountains, far away from residential areas where men, women and children lived. Adult commanders, who commanded us, lived in the residential areas with their families, only visiting once or twice a week for inspection.

We had no adults, no radios, televisions, computers or phones, and no social media. Nothing! Completely cut off from the outside world, we only shot the Kalashnikovs and sang "Shalla abui, adiu talga (even if it's my father, I'll give him the bullet)."

This prolonged isolation explains why many of us lack decent social skills. So, to those who keep insulting us by saying, "Lost Boys act like boys instead of men," the reason why we lack typical behaviours is not our fault. Instead, we had sacrificed our childhoods for the sake of our country so that you can have the freedom to insult all you want. Your insults only validate our ultimate sacrifices; keep doing it!

Without adequate social skills and no adults to learn them from either, we depended on each other for survival. We made decisions, wrong or right, collectively. We all learned all facts of life through trial and error, often the latter.

The isolation and vulnerability had bonded us together. Like a shoal of fish or a herd of wilder beasts, we pooled together for survival. We dodged bullets and bombs together, leaped over landmines together, and endured hunger and thirst together.
But our downfall began when we migrated to the Western world, where we scattered in different countries, states, cities, and apartments. For the first time in our lives, we started to live and make the decision individually. How terrifying!

The separation anxiety and the lack of social skills, coupled with culture shock, are the primary sources of stress among the Jesh el Amer. In concrete terms, it is hard to navigate through in this part of the world individually.

A Jesh Amer goes to work. A supervisor yells at him, but he is not used to being yelled at, so he yells right back. "Who cares?" he says and quips the job. "I will find another job."

He takes his little savings to South Sudan to look for a wife. Without social skills and he marries the first girl he sees—big mistake! As soon as he returns to America, his wife becomes a play toy for Juba boys. "Who cares? I will get another wife."

He finds another job. And like the first job, he does not like the way he is treated. "Who cares?" He quits.

In the apartment, the landlord is driving him nuts. He does not have a penny to pay the rent. "Who cares?" he leaves the apartment.

Now he is homeless. He needs help so badly, but no one to help him. His friends and comrades are dealing with their shits too! Some of his comrades are in a similar station. Others are doing well, but they are swamped, working two jobs and studying at the same time. They are trying to keep their shits together and have no time to babysit their fallen comrades.

The absence of social skills, separation anxiety, and culture shock, linked to the previous war exposure and trauma, are the leading causes of stress and other mental health disorders among the Jesh el Amer in the Western countries.

Posted in: Home, Opinions
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13/04/2020, 11:37 AM
 - Posted by Jacob Akol
Some responses to the above article on facebook discussion:
James Mayik: Jacob, this writer is a good observer although he has unfairly bashed members of the former Red Army. This paragraph caught my eyes: "Now he is homeless. He needs help so badly, but no one to help him. His friends and comrades are dealing with their shits too! Some of his comrades are in a similar situation. Others are doing well, but they are swamped, working two jobs and studying at the same time. They are trying to keep their shits together and have no time to babysit their fallen comrades." This writer doesn't understand that in fact, those who are doing well are mostly members of the former Red Army. South Sudan should celebrate the Red Army because they have delivered in very big ways. Most South Sudanese families turn to them during the darkest hours for help to cover the cost of food, transport to safety, and medication in foreign hospitals. Some of the Jesh Amer indeed have their own mess but these are comparatively quite a few. The most affected are members of the former Black Army (Jesh Aswuod) who fought in various frontlines of South Sudan's battles with the SAF before flocking into Refugee camps where they sought resettlement. Some of these people arrived in the west completely damaged after seeing or doing too much horror in the frontlines. The SPLM/A high command did too little to appreciate their services or give them counseling. Just like many members of the American Marine corps who have succumbed to hardships of the post-war civilian lives after the horrors of war, the SPLA veterans were finding it tough to blend back into civilian lives. Some of them were used to the power of holding guns and killing so much they found it tough to receive commands from civilians. Most of them ultimately found freedom only under the bridges without jobs and wives. In the process of finding it hard to receive commands from civilians including wives who don't often see their psychological damages behind subconsciousness, some of these veterans have committed horrific crimes up to and including homicide or suicide. Some of these people have found their permanent homes in the cages of prison. The writer needs to revise his research and look beyond his home city. Besides bringing Peace to South Sudan through lobbying the Republican Christian Fundamentalists who in turn pressured the Bush Administration in 2002, the former Jesh Amer (Red Army) are still building South Sudan's youths with their labor dollars. The former Red Army is the lifeline of so many South Sudanese urban refugees growing in the East African cities. They are schooling lots of South Sudanese children. Bashing them this way is unceremoniously insulting, to say the least. Those who doubt or belittle the contribution of the former Red Army, the so-called "Lost Boys," who found a home in the United States should listen to this song of thanks from Peter Magai linked here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Dut Miathiang: The writer seems to have second-hand knowledge about Jech-Amer. Why would you describes the Lost Boys as the "So call Lost Boys" if you are one of them? And by the way, which Jech-Amer group that sang "Shalla abui wediu talga?" That was Jech-Asuod song my brother, we had our own songs. Talking about the Lost boys as failure! I think the Lost boys are the most successful immigrants, in both academically and socially. Although there are few Lost Boys that are struggling, that is common and normal among group of people, not everyone that succeeds in life. I don't like the generalizations.

Willy Mayom Maker: Mr. Dut Miathiang: You have misunderstood me in all accounts:
Yes, I’m the writer. I just did not want to keep saying “I did that”, “I did this” and “I said that.” It sounds informal. That’s why I keep saying “writer” or “author.”
The reason why we sang the song “Katiba Bilpam ma indu rahma, shalla abui adiu talga,” was because Dimma was the headquarters of Jesh Amer. All the Jesh of Jumas, of Koryom, of Muormuor, of Kazuk, of Zalzal, Itifather, intshar, you name it; from the beginning to the end of the SPLA, were kept in Dimma. After they were trained in Bongo and Bilpam respectively, Jesh Aswuot were taken to front to fight and Jesh Amer, who were too young, were taken to Dimma to join the other Jesh Amer who were trained there. And because we were from all the divisions of the entire SPLA, we only sang famous songs that were known by all, and Koryom and Muormuor song were the songs we sang, because most of our Jesh Amer in Dimma were from Koryom and Muormuor. Ask any Jesh Amer from Dimma, and he will tell this fact. If you don’t believe me, you ask James Hoth Mai (former chief of staff), he will explain it to you better than I do, because James Hoth was the one who commanded all the SPLA Jesh in Dimma. The song was not meant to be sung by Jesh Aswuot alone. It belongs to the entire SPLA. I know you have your songs in Panyudu because you were all from Jesh Amer of Panyudu. But in Dimma, it was the entire Jesh Amer who were trained in Bilpam, Bongo and Dimma combined together.
The reason why I keep saying “the so-called Lost Boys” is because I hate the name ‘lost boys’, because it is insulting and degrading. That is why I keep saying” Jesh Amer” and if I want to use this insulting term which stuck on us, then I say ‘the so-called Jesh Amer’ in quotations to indicate that I don’t like and don't even agree the name. That's why I keep using quotes. You should pay attention to quotation marks ("") when reading; there is a reason why they are used. Otherwise, you will misunderstand many people.
Read the reply I gave to James Mayik. I did not say lost boys were failure. Read again!
You have to analyze the context critically before you present your argument or challenge the author.
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