War-weary Sudanese Also Most Hopeful for Peace

Sudan farming

Tekwaro Onyala and his wife Agnes Avma Onyada are growing sweet potatoes. Photo by Karen Kasmauski for CRS

by John Lindner

Here’s a partial list of flashpoints in southern Sudan:
– Tension between north and south in the shadow of an upcoming referendum on unity or secession.
– Disputed north-south border.
– Oil fields located near the disputed north-south border. Both sides would like to see the oil on their side of the line.
– A long history of civil war has shattered traditional forms of conflict resolution.
– Greater availability of weapons.

– Inter-tribal disputes and rivalries can quickly flare into violence.
– Poverty, hunger, disease permeate the country, heightening tensions over resources like food, water, grazing and farm land.
– The question of what will be the rights of southern Sudanese living (and who have always lived) in the north should the south secede.
– Persistent threat of random attacks by marauding terrorists who have no clear political aspirations or connection to Sudan.
– Countrywide displacement complicated by hundreds of thousands of refugees returning to homelands now occupied by others.
– Border country disputes.
– Power struggles within southern Sudan should citizens vote to secede.

Am I skeptical about the prospects for sudden, wholesale peace in Sudan? Yes. I think it would be intellectually dishonest not to be.

But I’ve met some of the people you’d think would be the least sanguine about Sudan’s prospects—southern Sudanese who’ve seen and suffered the horrors and the dull privations of war and terror. Amazingly, they feel certain that, at long last, a measure of peace and freedom is at hand.

Has long-unrequited yearning for peace and self-determination caused them to see a mirage where really only a battlefield remains?


But when we look at all the forks in the roads to peace or chaos, the inter-tribal, inter-clan relations are the most critical paths. If just those could be cleared—and they are the objects of much of the Church’s and therefore CRS’ peacebuilding work in southern Sudan—a large measure of violence would be averted, a great portion of wholesale peace could be realized.

CRS is taking a novel approach to southern Sudan. Following the lead of the Church, we are asking for support to respond to an emergency before the emergency happens. We are doing a thing called “peacebuilding,” which I’ll write about next week.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you why you’re glad you don’t live next to me.

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.

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