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December 12, 2013

A reunion in Africa

Native of war-ravaged South Sudan sees sister after 30 years


Bior was keen to go. The pair arrived first in Nairobi, Kenya, on the heels of September’s mall massacre. They traveled next to Kampala and then to a reunion in Juba with sister Deborah Nyanwut, who arrived from a refugee camp in northern Kenya.

“She immediately began to cry. The tears just streamed down her face,” Reid said. “And Anyang, a guy who doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he started to tear up, too.”

They embraced for a long moment.

For his part, Bior was startled by this evidence of so many lost years, startled that his elder sister had grown so old in 30 years. Neither was South Sudan as he remembered.

“The roads that were built at that time. There is no road. The school built by the British. It was blown up by both sides.” It made him weep “that so much was blown up by the war.” Clashes between North Sudan and the recently independent South Sudan continue over a disputed oil-rich region.

Following his time in Iraq, Bior has had trouble finding a full-time job. He works now and then as a security officer. What strikes Reid is his lack of anger.

“He’s a very gentle, lovely man. Some people would be bitter. But he’s not. ... Part of that has to do, I believe, with his Christian faith.”

Bior ticks off a list of friends he is grateful to, even including his landlord Karen O’Keefe. More than once he declares, “The people in my church. I want to thank them with all my heart.”

Alan Burke can be reached at

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