The non-binding referendum in Abyei – where people voted overwhelmingly to join South Sudan – and the ensuing celebration, has brought little immediate resolution to the long-festering Abyei problem.
When Chris Bak returned two weeks ago to the disputed border town of Abyei, which voted this week on whether to join Sudan or South Sudan, he barely recognised it as the place where he grew up. “Everything is dirty,” he told IPS. “We were just going around and around, but we didn’t [recognise] this place.”
Mary K. loved to study and wanted to be an accountant. However, when she was 16 and in class six (grade eight), her father forced her to leave school to marry a 50-year-old man who paid him 60 cows.
On the last day of July, South Sudanese soldiers shot dead two unarmed women, Anyibi Baba and Ateil Rio. The killings were the latest in a pattern of grave violations against civilians by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers fighting a Murle rebel group in Jonglei state.
Following fighting in the South Sudan state of Jonglei , the United Nations is trying to coordinate a humanitarian effort to help tens of thousands of people who have fled to the bush. The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an operation to provide food for those who have escaped the conflict.
Despite the United Nations' "zero tolerance" policy against sexual violence, there has been a rash of gender-based crimes in several of the world's conflict zones, including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Northern Uganda, Somalia, the Central African Republic - and, more recently, in politically-troubled Egypt and Syria.
Since age 18, Zechariah Manyok Biar fought in the revolutionary army that won South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July 2011. But now the 28-year-old is in exile from the country he helped liberate.
Akech B. loved to study and dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when she was 14, her uncle who was raising her forced her to leave school to marry a man Akech described as old and gray-haired. The man paid 75 cows as dowry for Akech. He was already married to another woman with whom he had several children.
Susana Apai Wani has lived as a widow for more than two decades since her husband, James Wani, was arrested in 1992 by a policeman who accused him of collaborating with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which was a rebel political movement at the time.
“My husband and older son, unable to cope with the war, became mentally ill. Two of my sons became child soldiers and an eight-year-old daughter was abducted – they were never to be seen again,” Mariamu Dong says, referring to the 21-year civil war between north and south Sudan, which are now separate countries.
“Our daughters are our only source of wealth. Where else do you expect me to get cows from?” asks 60-year-old Jacob Deng from South Sudan’s Jonglei state.
Experts here are calling on the United States and the international community to increase pressure on the government of South Sudan to address weaknesses in its central governance.
Sungu Mizele, a Congolese national living in Yambio, in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, earns a living selling the fruit and vegetables that she grows in her backyard, at the local town market. On average, she earns nine dollars a day. But on a good day, when she has fresh supplies, she can earn up to 31 dollars.
The African Union summit failed to provide a breakthrough in the ongoing negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan when it ended on Monday Jan. 28.
South Sudan may have received slightly more than 10 billion dollars in oil revenue from 2005 to January 2012, when oil production shut down, according to both government officials and the World Bank.
But development experts have urged the government to begin investing in the country and its people, as basic social services remain scarce.