Facing Uncertainty, Southern Sudanese Leave Khartoum

“It’s better to go to the south. We don’t know what measures are being taken (for southerners in the north),” he said as fellow southerners loaded their furniture into 10 trucks behind him in a large square.

South Sudan became Africa’s newest nation on Saturday after voting in January to break from Khartoum under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Around 300,000 southerners have already left but more than one million are still in the north where they have been living for decades after escaping the war that killed two million people.

Many in the slum — one of several near Khartoum — said they had no idea what would greet them in the south but had to leave because they had no jobs. Others said they feared they might not be welcome anymore in the Muslim north.

“Many have left since then (Saturday). There is no point staying,” said Elias, who is a Christian like many other southerners.

Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who lost a third of the African country’s territory on Saturday, has said southerners will have to decide whether they want to take northern or southern citizenship.

In December, Bashir said the north would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south opted for a split. During the independence ceremony in the southern capital Juba on Saturday he said the north wanted to help the south build its country.

CHURCH WILL STAY

In a church in central Khartoum — just a 30-minute drive from the slum — Bishop Ezekiel Kondo said he was confident that Bashir would not act upon his words.

“There was talk that if the southerners voted for separation, the north would have one religion, one language, one philosophy. This is why perhaps some people feel afraid,” he said. “I believe this talk to be untrue. The church will remain, but of course fear will exist.”

In the slum, families prepared themselves for the long trip to the south by train and Nile barge.

Women piled up bed frames, chairs and tables to be loaded on to trucks. They collected the wood from their makeshift huts to build new homes.

“Today I am collecting my property to travel to the south. It’s better I return,” said Angel Malwal, a woman who has lived in the slum since the 1980s.

Like many others she will make the trip by Nile barge because fighting along parts of the 2,000 km (1,200 miles) joint north-south border makes travelling by road difficult.

Around 16,000 southerners have been stranded in the northern city of Kosti, arriving there by rail and waiting for barges to take them south, according to the United Nations refugee agency

UNCHR.

“The future is for my children. I hope to get them a good education, said Nihala Amog, a woman from the south. “I don’t have a future because I am getting old.” Reuters