Sudan: ‘I’m Going Where? To Do What?’

Sudan tank

We passed this old rusty tank on Road to Nimule. It’s exactly what I like to see in a tank: inoperable and with weeds growing out of it. But it was a graphic reminder of the long war that southern Sudan has endured. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

by John Lindner

One of the cool things about working at CRS headquarters in Baltimore is the “brown bag lunch” meeting. They run about an hour and feature speakers bringing news from somewhere around the world. Topics range from irrigation in Afghanistan to cassava rot in Uganda and … and ….

OK … they’re a lot more interesting than I’m making them sound.

So on Wednesday, June 30, I checked into the Sudan brown bagger. I felt like I needed to learn more about what was happening in southern Sudan because CRS is making an unusual plea for support there and as website editor I knew I was going to be seeing more stories about it.

The two speakers were Sudanese Bishop Eduardo Kussala and CRS Sudan country representative Dan Griffin.

Bishop Kussala outlined the situation in southern Sudan:

Sudan cows

Cattle can be a source of tension when they come through a village and wipe out crops that represent a few months worth of food for a family. The long war caused shifts in grazing and growing land use and messed up traditional forms of conflict resolution. It’s one of the flashpoints CRS and Church peacebuilding addresses. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

– Sudan has been in a state of near- constant civil war since 1955, the year before the United Kingdom and Egypt relinquished control of the country.
– Southern Sudan is on the cusp of a vote to remain in unity with the north or to secede and create its own nation.
– A secession vote could re-ignite civil war.
– To make matters worse, southern Sudan is plagued by marauders whose vicious, apparently random attacks send thousands fleeing their homes.
– The south is rich with natural resources, one of which is oil. That becomes a central factor in north-south disputes.
– Compounding and perhaps eclipsing all the above, the most acute threat to southern Sudan is violence among its own people.

Decades of war forced millions of southern Sudanese to seek refuge across borders. Those who stayed often fled to other parts of the country. When refugees returned to their ancestral homes, they found different tribes living on their homelands. That led to land disputes. To that, add classic tension between cattlemen and farmers, much like the U.S. West saw in its history, and you can imagine the strains on everyday life. Further complicating matters: decades of war shredded southern Sudan’s traditional, civil, and quite effective means of settling inter-tribal conflict.

Following Bishop Kussala, Dan Griffin summed up the situation by saying that what we’re seeing now in southern Sudan will likely lead to one of two things:
– the birth of a new nation.
– violence that could make the losses in Rwanda and chaos in Somalia look manageable.

I left the meeting with one thought: “Thank God I’m not the guy who has to go and write about something called ‘peacebuilding’ in a place so ripe for hostility.”

A half-hour later our web unit director and our photo editor walked into my cube.

“Do you want to go to Sudan?”

Sixteen days later I boarded a plane for Juba, southern Sudan’s capital city.

Learn more about CRS’ work to achieve peace in Sudan.

CRS web managing editor John Lindner traveled to southern Sudan to report on peacebuilding. This is the first of a set of posts on the work the Church and CRS are doing in southern Sudan.

Share on Twitter


One Response to “Sudan: ‘I’m Going Where? To Do What?’”

  1. Sudan: Campaign Seeks to Prevent Crisis | CRS Voices Says:

    […] you read yesterday’s Sudan blog post, you know that, in a shocking development, I was sent to report on CRS peacebuilding work in […]

Leave a Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.