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PEACE COMES TO SUDAN , BUT SOUTHERNERS STILL SUFFER
By Mapitsi Phukubje
African News Dimension Network

Refugees are coming back, young men are searching for brides and the hum of crickets and chirping birds have replaced the stutter of gunfire a year after a truce ended a 21-year war that killed 2 million people in southern Sudan .

The villagers living in places unnamed on any map, without roads, electricity, schools or clinics, say they still feel forgotten, and fear war will return if peace does not also mean prosperity. Guns are the most modern innovation in sight.
A lucky few have wheel-driven pumps to draw water. “We have been left behind to walk with the cows,” says medical worker Francis Gatluak, 48. “People in Sudan are not treated equally … and peace will not stay until they are.” Centuries of hatred have built up between north and south Sudan since Arab Muslims invaded Africa ‘s Nubian kingdoms in the mid-600s in search of slaves and converts among its Coptic Christians. The Nubians repulsed them, but a gradual Arabization took place and continues today in Africa’s largest country, covering an area one-third the size of the United States .
Ancient animosities over land and water were compounded by the discovery of oil in south Sudan , triggering a rebellion in 1983 by mainly Christian and animist southerners. Guerrillas won control of much of the south but the Arab government in Khartoum , the capital, established garrison towns around the three major oil fields it began exploiting in the 1990s. Gatluak said the difference between north and south is “like night and day,” with the north enjoying electricity, piped water, paved roads, schools and high-rise buildings constructed with new oil wealth estimated to account for 70 percent of the country’s income.
“For now, people are prepared to wait and see if the peace agreement can help us sit together and negotiate whether we can share what we have, whether we can live and work together,” said Gatluak. “If not, we separate. And I would say the majority is on the side of separation.”
He doubted southerners would wait six years for a referendum on independence, provided under a Jan. 9, 2005 peace agreement that produced a national unity government and promises autonomy, religious freedom and an equal share of oil wealth to the south. Former rebel leaders with an army drawn from their Sudanese People’s Liberation Army are preparing to take over this month in Juba , the only town in the deep south reachable by a paved though badly potholed road. Its streets are full of white U.N. vehicles carrying the first of some 10,000 peacekeepers.
But one year on, southerners accuse the Khartoum government of giving only a fraction of what was promised in oil revenues. Relative peace has not stopped gunbattles between rival clans over cattle, pasture and water. Brig. David Reayh Malmal charged the Khartoum government was actively arming militias and rival clans even while the new unity government had sent him to Lankien to disarm SPLA soldiers. “This peace is not going well,” he told The Associated Press.
Sudan ‘s government denies it unleashed surrogate militias that continue to terrorize southerners. Militiamen were supposed to decide by Monday whether to join the southern or northern armies but remain independent, armed and “a big problem,” according to Malmal.
In Lankien, flags emblazoned with bulls hang atop huts, signaling young men are looking for brides. “Before, all the men ran away to escape the war,” said Nyalowal Lam, for whom peace brought union to the man she was supposed to marry four years ago. “Now, we have weddings every week. Now we can live normally.”Source: Sapa