From child soldier to model, meet Ger

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January 5, 2011 – Ger Duany is a model/actor based in the United States. He is a Sudanese man aged 32, who left his native home when things became apart, just like the meaning of his name – Ger – when things become apart.

The 7th in a family of 10, Ger left home about 18 years ago just a few years short of adulthood and took a flight to the US of A.

He was apart from his family even then, going with a friend he made at a refugee camp in Ethiopia; a friend who was his key to the land of opportunity.

“This guy pretended that I was his brother. And though we didn’t look alike, he pretended that we had a different mother and that’s why they let me go to the states,” he tells Capital Lifestyle.

Ger did not inherit his name. It was given to him in anger while his father was away at war. Ger’s mother was lamenting that an uncle of his had been given poisonous herbs that killed him instead of healing him, and she uttered that her child (when delivered) would be called Ger – because if people were there and had not become apart, the man who killed her relative would not have walked away, but would have been killed too.

Ger already had a story, but his new chapter was part of a much bigger tale that he was keen to be a part of.

When things became apart (Ger), is in Sudan, waiting to vote on the monumental referendum slated for January 9, 2010 which bears the grave liability of changing the entire destiny of Africa’s largest country.

“To me, Sudan is home, whatever the case. During the war, we would be dodging bullets, helicopters would be dropping bombs and so we walked as the whole family from Sudan to Ethiopia. Then civil war broke out there in 1991, and in the chaos we (the family) separated.”

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Ger walked back to Sudan after the chaos in Ethiopia. He was alone, and did not have money, but he had a donkey and lots and lots of bullets that he had looted from stores when the fighting broke out in Ethiopia.

“I was still young and if they found me with an AK-47, they would have killed me for it. So I had a lot of bullets and I sold them to survive. I was introduced to guns at an early age, and for me they signify protection.”

Ger’s dad was a captain in the SPLA, and that is how he learnt about guns. His fascination for them earned him a job at a military camp (SPLA) when he returned to Sudan.

“I was like a bodyguard for one of the generals…and I was really good with guns so I got a job cleaning guns as well and making sure they were working fine. At some point, our camp got attacked. It was a big camp, and we were about 1,500 of us. That day, we lost about 87 people …and it (the camp) dispersed.”

Ger trod back again to Ethiopia, and found himself in a refugee camp, which was his home for a couple of years. At the time, he was too young to be repatriated to the United States because those who are are usually required to fend for themselves. It is for that reason that his mate at the camp lied that they were related – to secure him a ticket.

“When I was leaving the camp to go to the States, I did not look back. Right now, I have a successful life in New York, but I left something important back home, and I want to bring the two together; to bridge the gap.”

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Multiple award-winning writer/director Wanuri Kahiu has been filming Ger’s experience. She spent some time in The Big Apple, took footage of Ger in Nairobi as he met one of his brothers, and is now in Sudan ready for the referendum and massive family reunion.

She said on twitter that when Ger met his mother, she hugged him and cried. Then she hugged herself as if she was going to break. Wanuri explained her documentary to me…

“This is not just about Sudan. Its the whole idea that we are human beings and that all of us hurt. And getting away from the three Ds of Africa, Death, Destruction and Disaster. Getting away from those stories and having hopeful stories about reconnecting with your family, coming back to help build your country, what are we doing that’s more important than that?”

Wanuri says she loves the fact that despite all the hardship in Ger’s life, he is not the stereotype that most people would think.

“Ger is one of the most beautiful people I have met. He is really giving and he takes care of people and all these things that you don’t expect people who’ve gone through such a hard conflict area to be…and I think about my family and I’m like how do I have my small issues with my family and Ger hasn’t seen his brothers and sisters in 18 years… 18 years! I need to appreciate the people I have with me now, here, now. And also this is about the creation of a new country, and for Ger to come and be a part of that…”

Wanuri shakes her head and stops her statement with that semi-question. I imagine people would judge Ger and other Sudanese natives who are returning from far and wide to be a part of the referendum, most of whom have genuine American accents.

But maybe in a few years they will appreciate the expertise and love that people like Ger will have to contribute, should there be a new Sudan. In the South.

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