Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

According to BBC news, the latest news here is that the government of South Sudan is going to start actively disarming citizens. The twenty some odd years of war left a country full of guns. Not handguns, but rifles, some even semi automatic and automatic. If you read the article (linked above) it explains that they've attempted a voluntary disarmament program, but very few weapons have been turned in. The last time they disarmed groups, those disarmed were left defenseless against others who kept their weapons, leading to hundreds of deaths. So this time they're taking weapons by force.

I beg to differ. Although pictures of the government disarming civilians who live in tukuls (mud and grass thatched huts) may look good as an international news blurb, it's far from the biggest thing happening. Google Abyei, South Sudan. The town was burned to the ground in May, people are fleeing by the 10,000s and maybe a week or two ago the "joint" government of Sudan and South Sudan said they were sending in a coalition force of troops from both sides to quell the violence. However, I appear to be living on an important supply road and have a front row seat to a small fraction movement towards Abyei. Last weekend a truck from an international NGO stopped to rest near our compound. The driver told someone I work with that the NGO is already setting up camps to care for the wounded that they anticipate from the upcoming fighting and possible outbreak of civil war. The driver had a truck full of emergency medical supplies. Then today as we were driving to Mvolo military truck after military truck whizzed past us over the potholes. The immense impact of what I was seeing was overwhelming. The government of South Sudan appears to be mobilizing its troops, and is sending trucks full of boys, men and many many weapons to Abyei. I am not an expert, I am merely reporting what I've seen firsthand, but the peace agreement that was signed in 2005, after decades of war and over a million deaths, appears to be hanging by a thread. The U.S. government recently pulled out from talks that were aimed at making the peace agreement work. They said that it seemed like no one wanted peace. I guess it depends who you ask. The men who continue to wear military uniforms because the power and prestige of war have defined their lives might like an opportunity to command their peers again. But the children we've been interviewing for the past few days need stability more than anything. I haven't compiled the data yet, but easily more than half the children have moved in the past 7 or 8 years, when asked why, phrases like tribal clashes, internally displaced, death of parents, and to flee the flighting rolled off the tongues of babes. I don't know what will happen here, but for the sake of the development and progress of the country, and for whatever generation eventually sees the end of the fighting (if that day comes) and is faced with the daunting prospect of moving forward, I hope that peace comes sooner rather than later.

And in case you were wondering what they're fighting about, some say it's land, some say it's religion, some say it's politics, but at the center of it all Abyei is surrounded by oil fields.

1 comment:

  1. My analysis of the Abyei situation was certainly less than thorough, but from comparing the internet and what people around here say, I think it's more complete than what you'll find on most news sites. Abyei has been a point of contention for years because it lies near the border which isn't clearly delineated. Troops are mobilizing on both sides and my take on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reflects the local perception as opposed to the official or unbiased version. No one knows what's going to happen with the CPA but it's certainly a sensitive subject. We'll see what happens in the future, especially with the impending indictment of Bashir (N. Sudan/Sudan president - depending on who you ask) by the Hague for war crimes and genocide.