Hungry for change: law student seeks to rebuild South Sudan

9 July 2013

Sydney law student Ladu Boyo II, a former refugee from war-torn South Sudan, plans to stand for election in his home country in 2015.
Sydney law student Ladu Boyo II, a former refugee from war-torn South Sudan, plans to stand for election in his home country in 2015.

When Ladu Boyo II was 12 and living in a refugee camp in Uganda, he would sell scraps of food collected from rations to pay for his school fees. The rations were delivered by the UN to feed refugees like Ladu and his family who had fled South Sudan's civil war, Africa's longest running conflict, which resulted in two million deaths.

Sixteen years later, the war is over and South Sudan celebrates two years of independence today (9 July). It still has a long way to go and few young people there have the opportunity to pursue higher education, but Ladu has the hunger to learn so that he can change his country.

With a study loan from America, where his family migrated to in 2000, Ladu is now in the second year of his postgraduate law degree at the University of Sydney while living at International House. With his newly-acquired legal knowledge, Ladu hopes to return to South Sudan when he completes his degree to run as Member of Parliament for Kajo Keji in 2015.

"I chose to come here to study law because Australia and South Sudan are similar in that they both have a federal system," says Ladu. "Studying law has opened up my mind. It has taught me how to wrestle with different issues but also tolerate conflicting interests so that I can work within the system to change things."

Faced with challenges like political corruption, military dominance and lack of public services, South Sudan is a young country that also holds potential for change. Ladu says: "I'm running for election because I believe that traditional leaders hold too much power in politics and the younger generation should be allowed to lead South Sudan now that the war is over.

"The lack of available education means that many young people find it difficult to express and articulate their needs. Without education, the political debate is limited as people take what the elite say to be the truth.

"One of the key issues of my campaign will be about improving primary level education by training teachers better and by inculcating the hunger to learn in students," Ladu says. "The worst thing is for young people to miss opportunities because of poor education."

Since fleeing South Sudan with his family, Ladu has made many stopovers and the journey home has been a long one. But he still remembers a turning point in his life, in the Uganda refugee camp.

"During one of those food deliveries I heard a UN aid worker address everyone at the refugee camp," Ladu recalls. "He spoke passionately in English, which I didn't understand as a child.

"But in that moment, I realised that education was important, because if I travelled the world and saw what he saw and knew what he knew, I could change things."

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