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Winnipeg's refugee rapper with a mission

News Stories, 14 July 2008

© Courtesy of Rob Altemeyer
Samuel Mijok Lang, aka Hot Dogg, tells his life story to an audience at the City Hall in Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG, Canada, July 14 (UNHCR) Samuel Mijok Lang has found a mission in life; to help young people and promote understanding about different cultures through his rapping skills and his inspirational life story.

"I am not looking to become famous with my music, I just want to help the youth in the world," says the former refugee, known as Hot Dogg by his hip hop fans, who has built up quite a following in this city known as the gateway to western Canada. His debut album, "Lost in War," should spread his name further afield.

The 21-year-old gains inspiration for his music from his own amazing background and struggle for survival as one of the so-called Lost Boys, who were separated from their families and forced to flee their homes during the civil war in South Sudan. Lang was among almost 4,000 Lost Boys resettled in North America in 2001 with the help of the UN refugee agency.

He has made the most of his opportunities since then, completing secondary school and becoming a youth leader and a facilitator at workshops, where he tells deprived youths about his own inspirational journey to North America and his subsequent success.

Earlier this year, Lang received a certificate of recognition from the municipal authorities for his outstanding work with the youth of Winnipeg. "My dream is to give hope to the youth. I want to tell them that everything is possible. I was lost in war, lost in the jungle but today I have a new life."

And then there is his music, which draws on Hot Dogg's [a name given to Lang by his fans in recognition of his favourite food] personal experiences and promotes cultural and racial understanding. His practise of hip hop also reflects his own assimilation into North American society.

The 12 tracks of Lost in War, a mesmerizing mixture of driving beats and edgy lyrics, promote peace, unity, hope and education. In the opening number, "Lost Boy," Lang recounts his dramatic flight from Sudan to Ethiopia, and later Kenya, whence he left for resettlement in Winnipeg home to about 200 Lost Boys.

Lang, who has dabbled in the world of cinema and is working on a documentary with other Lost Boys, is also trying to help youth in South Sudan, where a fragile peace has been in place since January 2005, as well as in the country's troubled Darfur region.

In April, he organized a concert in Winnipeg to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur, where fighting between militias, rebels and the government has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. He is currently touring the United States to raise funds for war-affected children.

But he also has one very personal goal. He wants to return to Africa to find his mother, whom he has not seen since he fled Sudan all those years ago. "I heard that she is still in Kakuma Camp [in north-east Kenya] and she is now losing her sight. I would like to go see her," he said.

"It is difficult to enjoy my life in Canada when I know that my mother is still suffering in Kakuma Camp," he added, with sadness in his voice. A reunion would help heal some of the pain that Lang, one of whose mottos is "never forget your roots," has been suffering since he was a child.

By Shelow Hy in Winnipeg
and Gisèle Nyembwe in Ottawa, Canada

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UNHCR country pages

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

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