February 3, 2011 (JUBA) – The government of the emerging, independent South Sudan is being caught unprepared by a voluntary migration of thousands of university students from universities in northern Sudan. Also officials in the Sudanese parliament and administration say they are already perceived as foreigners.
The Southern students decided to leave classes in the north of Sudan and have moved to South Sudan, following the preliminary announcement of the referendum results in favour of independence.
- GoSS VP Riek Machar and ministers meeting with senior university lecturers, Juba, Feb. 3, 2011 (ST)
Under normal circumstances, the separation of the South would be a phased process of disengagement from institutions and the repatriation of southern officials from the northern government.
About 4,000 South Sudanese university students have rushed to their homeland, following the referendum exercise, according to the chairman of the South Sudan Lecturers Association, Andre Athiba, and confirmed by the minister of higher education in South Sudan, Joseph Okello.
In a meeting on Thursday with the vice president, Riek Machar and a number of ministers, including the minister of finance and economic planning, David Deng Athorbei, Athiba said the situation was getting serious as the three main universities in South Sudan’s three regions are not ready to accommodate the huge influx of students. The students spontaneously decided to leave the north of Sudan after the referendum, despite the government’s policy of trying to keep them in the north of Sudan, until necessary preparations are complete, nearer the official announcement of results on 9 July.
One of the university students, identified as Joseph Deng, who recently returned from the North following the announcement of preliminary results, said northerners including their university colleagues and some lecturers have been urging them to leave and move to their new country.
"They always ask, what are you waiting for? They tell us you have voted for separation and now you have independent country in the South, then what are you waiting for?” he said, adding that northerners had already begun to view southerners as foreigners after the voting result. “Southerners have also become nervous and scary in the North,” he further explained.
Issues of accommodation for the students and learning space such as lecture halls, hostels and labs were highlighted.
Deng also explained the difficulties South Sudanese lecturers have been facing difficulties, including poor salaries, which encourages some to opt for positions in government and NGOs. He appealed to the government to correct the situation.
The Vice President assured the lecturers that the government is aware of the importance of their role in the development of human resources in the emerging independent state. The Government of Southern Sudan will look into the situation and come up with a decision to resolve the issue, he assured the lecturers.
Also, tens of thousands of primary and secondary school pupils are said to have been repatriated to South Sudan. In Warrap state alone, around 4,000 students have come from northern schools and there are insufficient school places for them. An insufficient number of teachers has compounded the situation. According to the minister of general education, Milly Hussein, only 27 teachers are available in Warrap for the 4,000 pupils coming from the north of Sudan.
ALREADY FOREIGNERS IN NORTH SUDAN
The situation has become different as some South Sudanese officials in northern executive and legislative institutions have already moved to South Sudan, before the official result announcement.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune, a southern member of the National Assembly in Khartoum who travelled to Juba following the announcement of preliminary results said it was redundant for him to stay in the North.
"We are being seen as foreigners by our colleagues in the National Assembly following the announcement of referendum results for secession. Whenever we attempt to comment as MPs on issues affecting the North, our colleagues criticize us informally and look at it as an interference in their internal northern affairs because the South has already voted for independence and has its own parliament in Juba that discusses issues pertaining to the South,” said the MP who chose to remain anonymous.
“We are not being taken seriously in the North and our stay there has proved to be redundant and irrelevant after the independence vote,” he continued.
Official sources have also revealed that Khartoum government has recalled to northern Sudan all members of its component of the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs). The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) deployed about 12,000 soldiers as JIUs in the South. Most of them are southerners.
The deputy commander of the National Security and Intelligence Service, Majak Agot, who heads the body in the southern branch is said to have directed all the southern members of the national security service to withdraw to the South from the North.