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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Southerners in the north fear future safety after secession

By Ngor Arol Garang

January 23, 2011 (ABYEI) – South Sudanese still in the north Sudan are deeply anxious and expressed concerns and fear for their personal safety and that of their property, should the referendum vote result in Sudan splitting in two.

A Southern Sudanese woman who decided to stay in north Sudan does needlework at the Hadj Hassan district in south Khartoum January 6, 2011 (Reuters)
A Southern Sudanese woman who decided to stay in north Sudan does needlework at the Hadj Hassan district in south Khartoum January 6, 2011 (Reuters)

Many have started packing to return south despite security concerns along the north-south border, especially where South Kordofan border southern Sudan. Many analysts see violence on the border region as a potential trigger that could return the north and south back to civil war.

Discussions to resolve disputes as the south approaches probable independence, between Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), are moving slowly. The status of many southerners who have remained in the northern states and capital Khartoum is one of the major contentious issues the parties are grappling to resolve.

Officials from the Khartoum-based NCP have said publicly that if the south breaks away from the north in referendum, the southerners that remain in the north will be stripped of their citizenship and jobs.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune from Khartoum, Sultan Wol Mawien from Northern Bahr el Ghazal said they have started fearing possibilities of becoming victims of the separation between the two regions and that he already packed his luggage to return south.

“It is possible that angry group can turn their anger to innocent south Sudanese if the referendum outcome split the country. We have already had people asking individuals who have had an opportunity to vote during the recent exercise which choice they voted for. This is a clear indication that their lives and properties would be at risk once the results are announced against unity,” explained Sultan Mawien.

The fears are supported by the facts that northerners in Khartoum clashed with southerners in the past, particularly in 2005 after the death of the south’s former leader John Garang in a plane crash, which saw southerners staging a violent protest in the north, suspecting the death could have been a planed assassination by officials in the government. This particular protests sparked ethnic violence that left nearly 50 people killed while several houses were set ablaze and properties damaged.

It is believed that most of the people who participated in the protest were some of south Sudanese who fled their ancestral villages when the over two decades long civil war between the region many western media described as Arab Muslim north and the largely Christian and animist oil producing south that killed 2 million people and uprooted many others to neighboring countries of Uganda, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya to name a few as refugees, was in progress.

Sultan Mawien who said lives in makeshift house outside capital Khartoum in Jabarouna, an Arabic word used by its southern residents to describe their frustrations, which in English means “they forced us”, said had lived in the north for over a decade without improved living conditions and attitude on the side of some northern officials and people.

“I have lived in many different places in the north and the attitudes of the people here and their officials have not changed. Their behaviors remain the same. Nothing has changed. They hate us, referring to South Sudanese. I have lived here for 21 years. I came to the north in 1990 and until now nothing has changed. I live in makeshift. They conscripted my begotten son and was killed fighting on their side against the south,” explained sultan Mawien.

Mawien said his life has been hard over the years. “I have never settled especially after I lost my only son. Garang was my only son from my first wife. He was forcefully recruited into army service while returning to Khartoum from Kosti in 1994”, he said, adding he spent nearly a year looking for him.

He said his son went to see his young brother who is an uncle of his son living in Kosti and was sick. “He was caught and recruited to into armed service while returning to Khartoum from Kosti where he went to see his uncle who was sick there. We spent two months thinking he was still living with his uncle until my brother wife whose husband was sick came to Khartoum with information that the boy left two weeks after his visit. It was then that we started asking everybody until we were told he was caught by the army and recruited into the armed service and taken to areas around Kurmuk where he was killed in 2000,” he explained

The Sultan said his family has been struggling with lives while trying to adopt north’s social system, an uneasy part, facing discrimination, sometimes violence, and having to adjust to Islamic customs. “My wives went to jail several times for brewing alcohol. The daughters were also arrested several times for dressing matters until I had to send [them] home in the south after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he said.

Mawien said he is prepared to return home despite security challenges along the borderlines.

“I am ready to return home now. We have ready packed our luggage ready to leave within the coming days. We are only waiting for one of my brother in-laws in Dongola who wants to go with us, he said stressing that he better die while returning home than dying where nobody would be held responsible for his death. It is better die while known than dying in an area where nobody will know what happens to you and with nobody taking responsibility of the death,” he said.

In the last two months of 2010 over 55,000 southerners returned to the south.