S. Sudanese question value of partition

Author: Niamh Fleming-Farrell | The Daily Star, Lebanon

Date: 28 December 2012


UBA/KHARTOUM: Celebratory posters from July 9, 2011, still hang in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, but they are now weather-beaten and faded.


With oil revenues halted and security declining, South Sudanese are growing increasingly frustrated and beginning to question the value of their hard-won independence.


“During the time of the war there used to be supplies from Khartoum, [there was] food coming from Khartoum. Then, the salary was constant,” says Andrew, a pharmacist in Juba who for security reasons prefers not to give his surname.


Now, he says, “the country is worse economically. There is no food. There is robbing and killing just because people are looking for money.”


South Sudan and it northern neighbor, Sudan, separated a year and a half ago following a peace deal that ended over two decades of civil war, however, the states are still effectively economically dependent on each other.


According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most oil dependent country in the world, but Juba has not pumped the commodity since January 2012.


When the South seceded, it took 70 percent of Sudan’s oil fields with it, but the new state needs the pipeline running through its northern neighbor to export the income-generating resource.


Juba’s decision to shut down oil production last January following disagreement over the cost of using Sudan’s pipeline meant the halting of an industry that the World Bank says accounted for 98 percent of revenue.


Meanwhile, with the oil flow from South Sudan halted and inflation reaching almost 46 percent, the economy of Sudan is also on “the brink of collapse” according to an International Crisis Group report that was released in November.


Relations between the states remain testy. Cross-border violence is ongoing, and the final status of the Abyei area, which lies on the border between the countries, has yet to be decided.


The countries signed deals to restart exports in September, but disagreement over their implementation means that oil is still not flowing. Talks are set to resume in January.


What all this means is that on the ground both north and south of the border, South Sudanese, like Andrew, feel increasingly insecure.


Susan, whose husband is a driver for the Foreign Affairs Ministry and has not received his salary in four months, is disappointed to learn she will not be paid for speaking to The Daily Star.


Having moved from Khartoum to Juba following independence, the 30-year-old struggles to feed, clothe and educate her four children.


Susan has looked for a job – in the past she has worked as a cleaner – but says she cannot find any as the official language of South Sudan is English and she only speaks Arabic.


“In Khartoum there are factories, even if you don’t know how to speak a certain language for a certain job you can work in that factory and you can be paid weekly ... Here there is no such work,” she says.


Many of her peers “sell their bodies” in lodges and clubs along the Nile river which flows through the South’s capital, but neither she nor her husband want her to resort to prostitution. Susan would like to take an English course and find work in the city, but with tuition costing 450 South Sudanese pounds ($102) per month, she says it is impossible. Monthly rent is 400 SSP, and her husband’s salary, when he receives it, is 800 SSP.


Knowing the figures are unworkable, she says, without optimism: “I wait for work just to pop up from anywhere.”


The weakness of the Juba government also affects Andrew’s business.


From behind the counter in his cramped store, Andrew turns away over half the dozen customers that appear in a half-hour period. He doesn’t have the drugs they need – not because they cannot be found on the market but because he has chosen not to buy them.


“You see in east Africa there is a lot of the medicine is fake ... it doesn’t work. That is why we do not want to buy a lot of medicine,” he explains, lamenting the loss of Khartoum’s stringent oversight on imported drugs.


Andrew is critical of the Islamist government in the north, describing the non-Muslim South Sudanese as victims in almost every respect under the rule of President Omar Bashir’s National Congress Party; however, he acknowledges that in certain areas “Khartoum is clever.” Monitoring the pharmaceutical industry is one of these areas.


Since independence, crime has also been on the rise in Juba.


Desperation, Andrew says, has pushed people to “robbing and killing.”


“In Juba now there is no security,” he says, alleging that the army and police are responsible for many of the robberies in the city.


There is no centralized and comprehensive database of crime rates for the city, but the Sudd Institute, an independent research organization based in Juba, in its weekly review of Dec. 13 wrote: “It is not a secret that violent crime has been on the rise to an unacceptable level over the last few months.”


Although he could not provide hard statistics, Augustino Ting Mayai, director of research with the institute, told The Daily Star that indeed “the security situation has worsened over the last year or so.”


The institute’s review, entitled “Juba’s Insecurity: A Challenge to State Authority and Credibility” and authored by director of training Zacharia Diing Akol, does, however, classify the crimes into three categories: the organized targeting of individuals for commercial reasons, organized political assassinations, and random killings.


It also documents several particular incidents of violent crime and cites the deputy chairperson of the Eritrean community in Juba as saying 35 of its people have been killed in the city so far this year.


The review also notes “the indifference of the state authorities” to these crimes.


It reports that in the aftermath of one shooting in broad daylight on Dec. 12 eyewitnesses said that security guards and police officers fled the scene rather than working to prevent the perpetrators escaping.


In some areas of the city, Andrew says, communities have sought to protect themselves by mobilizing groups of youths to patrol the area at night. Andrew, however, does not allow his own sons to participate in such patrols “because it is very dangerous.”


Across the border, dissatisfaction is also expressed by South Sudanese who remain in Sudan.


Outside their country’s embassy in Khartoum, a group of about three dozen students studying in the city gather to protest the alleged nonpayment of a monthly stipend promised by President Salva Kiir’s government in Juba.


Others patiently stand in line to process visas and travel documents.


One group of four – two South Sudanese, one Sudanese, and one who is half and half – is engaged in a heated discussion.


Life and business, they say, were easier before the separation, adding that they believe reunification could improve the standard of living again.


Hasan Ibrahim, a 58-year-old Sudanese businessman with interests in the southern country, says that here is no enmity between the people of the two countries.


“Even during the war, the people of the south come to the north, not to other African countries.”


To strengthen his case for reunification he cites international diplomat Francis Deng, who argued throughout the secession process that separation could be a healing step along the path to reunification.


Ibrahim also paraphrases British Winston Churchill: “There is no real enemy, no real friends, there are just real interests.”


The others nod, expressing their frustrations with trying to live between the two economically crippled states.


For many, however, independence, with all its trappings, both good and bad, can never be sacrificed.


“We cherish this independence,” says Gabriel Shadar, a South Sudanese radio journalist based in Juba.


However, speaking in a personal capacity, he admits that at the time of secession, the country was not “100 percent ready with a clear-cut system of government and economic policy.”


But, while the population may sometimes regret independence, the answer is not in the past.


“The fact that we are speaking strongly about it means that we will find a way out. It’s a process of years, there will be setbacks, but eventually we will get there,” Shadar says, predicting “more social upheaval ahead.”


“We will see a very big change in the next election in 2015,” he predicts. “The people might decide to vote out the ruling elite.”



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 28, 2012, on page 9.




This article was published in the Daily Star, Lebanon on December 28, 2012.


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