Helping A Nation
Fall 2011 Issue | By Emily Frandsen
When Anselme Sadiki saw a 100-year old woman from South Sudan, with intense pride in her eyes, voting for the first time in her life, the feeling was indescribable.
"That part of the country has suffered greatly, from slavery to colonialism," Sadiki said. "It was the same feeling you got when you saw the end to apartheid in South Africa. They were so proud to have the ink on their finger. They felt, at last, they could take control of their own destiny."
Sadiki and his wife, Amy, both Idaho State University alumni, spent the last five years in South Sudan, working for the United Nations to help build a new government. Amy worked to provide social services for ex-combatants. Anselme assisted the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan in setting up new governance institutions, from creating laws and a court system to developing economic programs and even constructing government buildings.
After 21 years of war, Southern Sudan signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the north on January 9th 2005. The agreement helped form the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan and set a timeline for voting on a referendum to allow South Sudan to secede from the north. When Sadiki arrived, the government was still new.
Crowds try to pour into a polling center.
"Helping to set up government services after more than two decades of war and generations of unrest, has been a difficult task," Sadiki said. "Schools, health care facilities and most other services were destroyed, leaving an entire generation without education, most living in extreme poverty.
"The only thing they knew was the use of a gun when they were in the bush," Sadiki said. "It's going to take time to change the mindset from freedom fighters to civil servants."
In January, 2011, more than 95 percent of South Sudanese voters chose independence from Sudan. Voter turnout was nearly 100 percent. For most, it was the first time they had ever voted for anything.
"Nothing would stop them from voting," he said. "Everybody was in tears."
On July 9, South Sudan raised its flag for the first time. Sadiki watched from his new home in Idaho Falls as people began dancing and celebrating the night before.
"It's a history of a nation that we have been part of," Sadiki said. "Being part of it, that's a treasure for me."
It was a long trip for Amy and Anselme since the day they met at Idaho State University in 1997 at a study group. Anselme, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a former refugee himself, came to Pocatello in 1994 to study social work. Amy also earned her degree in social work.
"(Pocatello) is where we met and fell in love," Amy said.
Although Amy continued to pursue a career in social work, Anselme came to a realization while doing an internship through an Idaho State University presidential grant. He went on a tour of African nations to help with ISU recruiting efforts.
"I couldn't consider myself well equipped to counsel people," he said. "After my mission in Africa, that's when it hit me. I realized it had to be international affairs I needed to do for my future career."
Sadiki's recruiting efforts at Idaho State University were quite successful, and many of the students he helped bring to the United States are leading successful careers and making a difference in the lives of others. Some are doing investment projects in their own home communities.
"In some ways, ISU is helping educate the world," he said. "This is a global world now. We are already interconnected."
After graduating from Idaho State University, Sadiki earned a master's degree at Columbia University 'School of International and Public Affairs and received an internship from the United Nations. He was subsequently hired as Democratic Governance Specialist with United Nations Development Programme. His work at the United Nations has included governmental issues and health care. He has worked with the International Center for Equal Health Care Access, where local health care providers were trained in HIV/AIDs treatments. Sadiki worked with the organization to write a grant that provided antiretroviral drugs to those afflicted with the disease.
Today, Anselme and Amy live in Idaho Falls with their daughter, Rehema while they decide on their next adventure.
"It's been interesting work. I've enjoyed every part of it," Anselme said.