TMS Man of the Year: Manute Bol (Part 2)

January 03, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

The Political Activist:

Contrary to popular belief, former National Basketball League player and personality Manute Bol is not a native citizen of the United States. Manute Bol grew up in Africa. Sudan to be more specific. With his unique physical gifts, Manute was recruited by several colleges in the U.S. to play basketball. Most sports fans will remember Manute's 7'7" frame and propensity to block shots in his 10 year NBA career. But what became of Mr. Bol after his playing time ended?

While most former atheletes would rest on their laurels and their burgeoning bank accounts, Manute Bol aspired to become a more active member of the global community. Appreciative of the opportunities afforded him, Mr. Bol has set out to force positive change for those less fortunate than himself. Mr. Bol organized a publicity event New Year's Day on the steps of the capital building in Des Moines, Iowa. He was joined by numerous Sudanese U.S. citizens in an attempt to bring additional attention to the ongoing violence and genocide taking place in their home country of Sudan. The event was an appeal to the current Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to pledge action to counter the atrocities being committed in the African nation.

For those unfamiliar with the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, a brief synopsis. Sudan is essentially split between to ethnic factions: Arabs in the North, and native Sudanese Africans in the South. The Sudanese government has been funding Arab militias to quell uprisings from the South caused by the desperate pleas to end native economic marginalization. Government-funded militias have been destroying and looting villages, burning crops, raping women, and otherwise forcing native southern Sudanese to seek safety in refugee camps.

Much of the economic disparity is driven by Sudan's primary natural resource and export: oil. While the UN has imposed sanctions on Sudan, China has essentially worked to undermine them. China funds the Sudanese government, be it by the sale of military aircraft or the importing of Sudanese oil. In fact China accounts for 70 percent of all Sudanese oil exports. Yet given this considerable percentage, oil from Sudan only accounts for about four percent of China's imports.

With China set to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, many in the international community are using this as an opportunity to call attention to the crisis. Some are dubbing the 2008 games as the "Genocide Olympics" in an effort to awaken developed nations from their slumber and take a proactive stance against the oppression and genocide in Darfur. This is Manute Bol's hope. Through his upstart Ring True Foundation, and with the help of activists and humanitarians across the globe, Bol is intent on sharpening the focus on atrocities in Sudan this New Year.