Three MIIS Alumni in Sudan During Historic Transition

Written by  //  February 21, 2011  //  Alumni Stories, Careers, IPS  //  No comments

Monterey Institute alumni can be found in every corner of the globe today, and the central African nation of Sudan is no exception; no less than three recently provided us with fascinating glimpses of life in Sudan at a historic juncture for the troubled nation. After more than two decades of brutal civil war, it appears that a January referendum may result in the largest country in Africa being divided into two independent states, with one-third of what is now Sudan expected to become the new country of South Sudan as early as next summer.

Mawuor Dior (MAIPS ‘10) is one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” and fled by foot from the country’s long, devastating civil war in 1990 when he was 12 years old. His long journey led him eventually to the United States, but his heart never truly left Sudan. Last fall, with support from the MIIS community, Mawuor finally made it back to his rural village in southern Sudan to be reunited with his family.

He has remained in Sudan since then and was glad to be able to take part in the democratic process: “It is a very happy time for me to witness it, and participate through my vote.” Mawuor is quick to add that he remains cautious in his response, as he knows all too well from experience and his studies that the road ahead is not an easy one. “Euphoria about the independence is well and good, but does not translate into the practical solutions that people are longing for,” says Mawuor who is ready to take part in the work ahead. “There is so much to be done.”

Mawuor’s fellow MIIS alumnus David Stobbelaar (MAIPS ‘07) joined the Carter Center right after graduation. Less than four years later, he is leading the charge against the guinea worm in southern Sudan, overseeing 21 technical advisors, 180 field officers and over 200 operational staff members in six states, as well as about 8,500 volunteers. This disease, known in the Old Testament as the “fiery serpent” has caused immeasurable pain and suffering over the years.

As recently as 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 20 countries; today fewer than 1,700 known cases of guinea worm remain, 94 percent of them in southern Sudan. Working with the Sudanese Ministry of Health, local agencies, and volunteers, the Carter Center has set a goal of total eradication by 2012, a goal David is committed to: “If you start something, see it through to the finish. I am going to do my best.” If they are successful, this will be the first time since the eradication of smallpox that a disease has been completely eliminated from the face of the earth.

Much has changed in southern Sudan in the three years that David has lived there. Two-and-a-half-day trips involving hard labor, digging out vehicles, and traveling by foot to reach certain rural areas now take six hours by car. New roads have also led to increased availability of goods, improved access to health care providers, new markets forming, and easier access for the oil industry. David is quick to clarify that although development has increased, it would be an overstatement to say things are happening quickly.

A third MIIS graduate is also hard at work in southern Sudan, where Emily Alexander (MAIPS ‘04) represents the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Juba. She is, in fact, one of the people behind the recent developments David mentions. Emily has worked closely with the government on post-referendum development plans and budgeting processes, as well as funding of bilateral and joint projects in the sectors of child and maternal health, food security, youth empowerment, and governance. “I have been privileged to play a part in working with the people of southern Sudan to rebuild and move forward,” says Emily, who is looking forward to continuing that work. In her capacity as official diplomatic observer, Emily visited the country’s polling centers during the week of the referendum and observed the counting process.

Emily, like David and Mawuor, is looking toward the establishment of the world’s 193rd country with hope and optimism, but all three caution that the road ahead will not be easy. There are still many issues for the North and South to negotiate, such as the sharing of oil wealth, the fate of the oil-rich border area of Abyei, and security arrangements. As Emily points out, “the next six months will be critical for the future of the region.” In the meantime, these three MIIS alums—as well a number of others also working in Sudan—are continuing their diverse efforts to ensure a successful transition for the Sudanese people.

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