Gabriel’s Story: Raising Up Leaders In South Sudan

Gabriel has been a part of our teaching network for years; easily one of the best teachers we have in South Sudan. He’s dedicated his life to training the next generation of leaders on everything from values to civic leadership; from emotional wellbeing to collective development. When the war resettled him in the refugee camp in Northern Uganda, he pressed on – gathering his students – continuing to teach.

One day he found himself in crowd of people who had gathered to hear a visiting Ugandan woman sharing a testimony. Something in this woman’s story unsettled the growing crowd and before long, incited a riot.  Before Gabriel could make much sense of the situation, stones were being thrown and the visiting woman was dead. Security forces arrived, shoving people aside to disperse the crowd. 

“Who did this?” the commanding officer bellowed. 

A stranger pointed their long finger at Gabriel. Without pause or confirmation, Gabriel found himself thrown into a prison holding cell unsure what to do next. His first phone call was to Tito, African Leadership’s South Sudan Country Director.

Tito spent the next two weeks gathering the defense and testimonies necessary to plead Gabriel’s innocence. He brought in character witnesses and others who had been there to attest to the truth that it was not Gabriel’s fault. Finally, ready to present his case, he traveled to the prison along with references and witnesses.

 
 

Sudan’s prisoner population is approaching 28,000

Gabriel’s vision is to serve those forgotten in the Sudanese prison system.

 
 
Please! You can’t take Gabriel away – he has turned our prison into a house of praise.
— prison guards at Gabriel's release

Freedom For The Prisoner

Met by the head of the police, Tito was relieved to hear that they knew it was not Gabriel. They knew Gabriel was a scapegoat and were still looking for the woman’s killer. Until then, though, the police thought it best to keep Gabriel in the prison for his own protection. Revenge killings are all too common in these situations.

Relieved and thrilled, Tito asked to see Gabriel – to encourage him for the days and weeks to come as they awaited his final release. As that crowd of large South Sudanese men walked the road from the offices to the prison in the final minutes of dusk, they were met by the prison guards walking out of the prison.

“Please! You can’t take Gabriel away – he has turned our prison into a house of praise.”

That evening, Gabriel told Tito of his vision: that the growing number of men and women trapped in the South Sudanese prison system were often overlooked. Gabriel believes that offering them an opportunity to better themselves will be a crucial part of the positive change he wants to see in South Sudan.

This is the power of passionate teachers. They see opportunity with each individual and through every scenario they encounter. They are driven by the desire to create African leaders who spark tangible change across communities in Africa.