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The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A possible link between Rochester and South Sudan got a push Tuesday when Sapana Abuyi, deputy governor of Western Equatoria State in South Sudan, met with Mayor Ardell Brede.

The trip was a follow-up to last year's visit by a government delegation from South Sudan, including the governor of Western Equatoria, in June to meet with Brede, Mayo Clinic officials and an Augsburg College professor.

On Tuesday, Brede also met with Alfred Ladu Gore, South Sudan's minister of environment, who was seeking information about environmental practices and how Rochester is such a clean city, Brede said.

"They want to maintain a relationship and friendship and are looking for suggestions of who to talk to," Brede said of his international visitors.

After last year's visit, Abuyi said, Mayo Clinic provided the first consignment of quantitative medical equipment, which was divided among three hospitals in Western Equatoria State. The equipment made it possible for African Union doctors to perform surgeries in South Sudan, whereas before, patients had to be transported to Kenya for minor surgeries, Abuyi said.

Abuyi also planned to meet with Mayo Clinic officials while he's in Rochester this week.

"We are looking for better relationships with my state and your state, especially Rochester," Abuyi said.

Partnerships could include everything from agricultural to educational resources, he said.

Western Equatoria, a densely forested region that borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic, is removed from the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan over the oil regulations and the border agreed on in the 2005 peace agreement, which led to the independence of South Sudan last year, he said.

And while the state has been affected by fighting with the Lord's Resistance Army, security is improving since the capture of the LRA commander, he said.

Now the region is looking for volunteers to come teach, especially English, since it was designated as the official language of South Sudan, he said. Local administrators of the new government also want to learn how to manage a state, he said.

"I've already seen a lot of things that will shape my thinking on how to go back," Abuyi said.

Just seeing the number of farms between South Dakota and Rochester inspired Abuyi to learn how to best use the land. Much of Western Equatoria is wild but ripe to grow corn, rice and beans.

South Sudan looks to learn from Rochester - Post-Bulletin