8:00am

Sat January 8, 2011
Africa

Sunday's Vote To Decide Whether Sudan Splits

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:34 am

On Sunday, millions of people in Africa's largest country begin voting on whether to split it in two. After two decades of civil war with the North, the people of south Sudan are poised to create the world's newest state.

Thousands of people pour through the streets of the southern capital of Juba in advance of the vote. They're driving in vans, they're on foot, they're waving flags and singing. The message from everyone you talk to is the same. They don't want to be a part of Sudan anymore. They want their own country.

"At last independence, at last," John Mojule laughs. "This is our time."

Mojule fled Sudan during the civil war. It was a time of incredible carnage when the Arab North armed militias that burned, raped and looted villages in the country's Christian and animist South.

The conflict cost 2 million lives and became Africa's longest civil war.

Now, Mojule is back from exile in Uganda to witness what he hopes will be the birth of a nation.

"Our people have suffered so much. So, so, much. Oppression from the Arabs. Not all the Arabs -- the fundamentalists. Now, we have our opportunity to vote, then our oppressors will be gone," he says.

Just look at Juba, he says. "It's the biggest village in the whole world. No water system, not toilet, no nothing. Now, we need development."

This is the biggest complaint from southerners. They say the North exploited their resources -- including oil – then neglected the region.

A few miles from the rally's excitement, the mood is more sober and southern Sudan's dire poverty and challenges come into relief. Here, the United Nation's World Food Program hands out sacks of sorghum to southerners who've just returned from the North to vote and live.

But there is no work for them here. Kator Andrato Salvatore has already gone through her first two rations and she's come to beg for more.

"I'm not sure my husband can get a job or not," she says. "Now, we're really suffering. Even the food we've received is finished. I don't know where to find more food."

Over the next week, southern Sudanese will have a chance to choose their own fate. Then, they will have to figure out how to make the most of that opportunity.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Violence has broken out as millions of people in Africa's largest country prepare to vote tomorrow on whether to split the nation in two. At least six people, including four rebels, were killed today in an attack on military forces in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. The Southern Sudanese people are poised to create the world's newest state after two decades of civil war with the North.

NPR's Frank Langfitt has the story from Juba.

(Soundbite of music)

FRANK LANGFITT: Thousands of people are pouring through the streets of Juba in advance of tomorrow's big vote. They're driving in vans, they're on foot, they're waving flags, and singing. And the message from everybody you talk to is the same. They don't want to be a part of Sudan anymore. They want their own country.

Mr. JOHN MOJULE(ph): At last independence, at last. This is our time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LANGFITT: John Mojule fled this country during the civil war, a time of incredible carnage. Sudan's Arab North armed militias that burned, raped and looted villages in the country's Christian and animist South. The conflict cost two million lives and became Africa's longest civil war. Now Mojule is back from exile in Uganda to witness what he hopes will be the birth of a nation.

Mr. MOJULE: Our people have suffered so much - so, so, much, and oppression of the Arabs. Of course not all Arabs, but the fundamentalists. But now here we have our(ph) opportunity, one vote, then our oppressors will be gone.

LANGFITT: How do you feel oppressed?

Mr. MOJULE: Look at Juba, the biggest village in the whole world - no water system, not toilet, no nothing. Huh? Now we need development.

LANGFITT: This is Southerner's biggest complaint. They say the North exploited their resources - including oil then neglected the region.

A few miles from the rally's excitement, the mood is more sober. And Southern Sudan's dire poverty and challenges come into relief.

The United Nations' World Food Program is handing out sacks of sorghum to Southerners who've just returned from the North to vote and live. There's no work for them here.

Kators Andrato Salvatore(ph) has already gone through her first two rations. She comes to beg for more.

Ms. KATORS ANDRATO SALVATORE (Through translator) I'm not sure my husband can get a job or not. Now we're really suffering. Even the food we've received is finished. I don't know where to find more food.

LANGFITT: Over the next week, Southern Sudanese will have a chance to choose their own fate. Then they'll have to figure out how to make the most of that opportunity.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Juba, Southern Sudan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.