Faces of the UI: Student plans to run for Sudanese Parliament

BY ASHLEY HAUGO | APRIL 24, 2009 7:32 AM

Like many other college students, Ladu Boyo is contemplating taking out a loan next year.

But this money wouldn’t be put toward books or additional semester hours. It would help fund his campaign for a seat in the Sudanese Parliament.

“People want some more young men to join the system. To try to change the turn of how things are going. To create a different way of doing things,” the native of Sudan explained as he leaned against his plastic desk chair in his Currier dorm room.

With the Sudanese elections scheduled for February 2010, Boyo has started preparing by using teleconferences to gather supporters, writing campaign speeches, and honing his campaign poster.

Abutting nine countries, Sudan is situated in the northeastern part of Africa. It has suffered under decades of civil war. Since the outbreak of the second civil war, in 1983, more than 4 million people have been displaced, and more than 2 million deaths have been recorded.

Such violence forced Boyo and his brothers to flee to a refugee camp in northern Uganda in 1994. In 2002, with the help of his father — who was living in the United States — and the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines, Boyo was able to come to Iowa with his siblings.

Peace talks in 2005 between Sudan’s government and rebel leaders in the south paved the way for an autonomous government in the region.

And Boyo looks to be a part of this new government, which he hopes will provide the foundation for south Sudan to become an independent nation in 2011.

“I think the whole future is upon [the younger generation]. For us who had the opportunity of coming out and going to school and get educated, it is good that we go home and help the process of creating a future for us,” the 24-year-old political-science major stated with a half smile, torn between the seriousness of the situation and excitement about what the future may hold.

But others aren’t so hesitant to don a whole-hearted smile, saying they are confident in Boyo’s future success.

“He’s got far-reaching goals, but I think he can achieve them,” said Kevin Velovitch, also a second-floor Currier resident.

While Velovitch was shocked to discover his dorm buddy was six years his senior, he humbly admitted that’s not the only difference between them.

“I’m just this freshman at Iowa trying to figure out what the heck I’m gonna do with my life, and here’s this kid going back home, and he’s gonna try to change his country — it’s amazing,” Velovitch said.

In addition to his studies and the 15 to 20 hours a week he spends on his campaign efforts, Boyo finds time to share music or friendly political debates with his peers. Balancing such roles is testament to his laid-back and approachable nature — characteristics that will serve him well as he hopes to focus on reforming the local government in Sudan.

And for the Rev. Alex Kenyi, that character is what it takes to succeed, regardless of Boyo’s nascent political career and young age that makes him stand out among the 40- and 50-year olds who typically fill parliamentary seats.

“What people care about is what is in his heart,” Kenyi said. “He has the ingredients for leadership.”
Kenyi lives in Moorhead, Minn., but his roots are in Kajo-Keji, south Sudan, Boyo’s home community. He said he would give the young man his vote if he were in the country for next year’s election.

With graduation day under a month away, Boyo is transitioning away from his university life — one that was a stark contrast to his younger schooling days under a mango tree with the ground as his workbook.

His closet is stripped of most of its clothes, and a modest-sized suitcase rests empty on his floor, ready to transport his belongings when the time comes. Only his Jenga-like stacks of biographies — from Gandhi to Clinton — remain intact on his desk.

“I’ve had a great time [at the UI] so far, but I think I’ve had enough, and I’m ready to move on,” Boyo concluded with a smile.

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