Unaccompanied minors trekked hundreds of miles to reach Pignudo camp. They have become popularly known as “the lost boys of Sudan,” after Peter Pan’s band of orphans. Many saw their friends dying of hunger and dehydration on their way to Ethiopia, Pignudo camp, Gambella region Ethiopia UNHCR / M. Amar / February 1989
In 1983, a gorilla moment called Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Moment (SPLM/A) started a protracted war with Sudanese Government. The Sudanese Government planned to displaced the whole black Africans from the south of the country by all means. The Sudanese Government used hunger, army and militias called Murahaliin to kill, rape, abduct, loot and display people from their lands. Murahaliin is an Arabic word which literally means displacers. The displacers were ready to replace the indigenous population in the South. Millions head of cattle, sheep, goats and young boys/girls and women were taken to North Sudan by their captives. Majority of captives were sold into slavery, others were made as domestic workers or wives. This forceful displacement encouraged many young men and women to join the SPLM/A gorilla moment from all corners of Southern Sudan in large numbers.
Four years into the war, the SPLM/A leadership had evaluated their overall operation/strategy and came to the conclusion that the war was going to take a long time before the SPLM/A could achieve its objective, the New Sudan. It was also envisaged that the Sudanese tactics of destroying education system in South Sudan would lead to lost generation without formal education and close to over 90% illiteracy rate in Southern Sudan.
In the same period (1983-1987), majority of young boys and girls who would either be in school or looking after the livestock of their families, had nothing to do. The Marauding Murahaliin were terrorising people all over the Southern Sudan. Families livelihood were destroyed, others separated and many lives lost. The current lost boys and girls of Sudan left their homes in chaotic manner toward Ethiopia.
The journey to Ethiopia took between 20 days and three months on foot. Lack of food, hostile local communities on the way, wild animals, rough and treacherous terrains and extreme weather took great toll on these young people. Majority of these young children died of thirst, heat strokes, snake bites and others eaten by lions. Total of 26,000 children were staying in refugee camps in Ethiopia. The lost boys and girls were collectively called Terrab, an Arabic words which means seed. The camps started as makeshift camp and were later developed by UNHCR into semi-permanent structures/houses.
When the war broke out again in Ethiopia in 1990, the young boys and girls were displaced again and they trek back to the Sudan border. The young people were valuable target and were pursued by Sudanese Government until they ended up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The word Lost Boys was coined in 1990s out of the characters of J.M. Barries’ Peter Pan film, The Lost Boys. This was because the stories of these young people resembled that of Peter Pan Characters. The common theme in the lost boys and girls story is that they lost the paths of their parents during the chaos of raid by Murahaliin and Sudan Armed forces (SAF) in the villages of South Sudan.
Many Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan have been resettled in Australia and they called Australia their second home. Others have gone to Canada, America, UK and other European countries