South Sudan steps up to self-rule

Despite government corruption the people of south Sudan relish their renewed freedom.

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement are accused of failing to develop the south [AP]

Despite a peace deal being established in 2005, many people in the south of Sudan are frustrated at the slow pace of change after a 21-year civil war.

Instead there is a growing awareness that any future lies away from Sudan and close to their African neighbours.

Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall has been to southern Sudan to assess progress there.

There are currently 10,000 UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan to enforce the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the government in the north and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south.

As part of the deal the south has been given six years to move to self-government, after which they are required to hold a referendum to decide whether to secede from Sudan.

One benefit of the peace deal is that the profits from the fought-over oilfields of Sudan are to be shared between the north and south.

However, plans for the the referendum do not appear to be on track and SPLM leaders have recently accused Khartoum’s authorities of falling behind on their commitments.

Southern government difficulties

In Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, many say the peace dividend is not being cashed in.

After so many years of warfare, the city is still largely underdeveloped and accusations of local government corruption of and violations to the peace deal abound

Here there is an increasing movement away from Khartoum and towards its African neighbours or Western thinking.

Schools there have changed their curriculum, replacing Arabic language classes with English.

Beyond the school gates there are hopes that the ‘cultural divorce’ from the Arab north will also have an economic benefit to it.

In terms of distance, Juba is 15 times closer to Uganda than to Khartoum and in its market every single commodity is imported from near neighbours Tanzania or Uganda.

In additionally, nearly all the merchants and business owners in the city are foreigners.

A baker and a stone merchant are the only Sudanese success stories.

The bread is produced locally and the stone merchants employs a large population.

They eke out a living by chiselling little stones from the mountain rock and selling them by the kilo for use in floor paving and house construction.

Poverty, unemployment and lack of infrastructure are all prevailant here.

Happy to be free

Yet, for all the hardships southerners say they are happy; they are surviving more on the glories of the historical peace agreement with the north rather than on any material gains from it as yet.

One Juba resident said: “We are enjoying peace, there is a little bit of freedom.”

“I am happy because I am now in my motherland, my heart is at rest,” another said.

The few reconstruction projects currently under way in Juba are giving a morale boost to a young population that is already euphoric about the new self-rule in southern Sudan

As a young Juba resident says:”Although I do not get my pay currently, I am expecting good pay in the future.

“We progress slowly, slowly. Rome was not built in a day.”

People like him acknowledge the setbacks of their government however; as another resident says: “Corruption is there, corruption is causing a lot of problems. It is bringing underdevelopment to the state.”

Yet, while corruption and failing policies are all subject for compromise in the south the experience of self-rule is not, and the overwhelming majority of southerners are intent on full separation from sudan as soon as they are allowed it.

Source : Al Jazeera


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