By Manyang Mayom
January 5, 2009 (WAU) – Islam is spreading in Wau as over 14 mosques are available to Muslims for prayers.
Wau, the state capital of Western Bhar-El-Gazal, is a centre for three states that include Lakes, Warrap and Northern Bhar-El-Gazal state (Aweil).
The state has been culturally diverse since the war period and earlier. Many tribes assembled in Wau during the war period between the Khartoum regime and the former rebel army the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). Wau is part of three counties that include Raja, Jur-River, Jur-Luo and Wau Central County.
According to ex-chief of Islamic religious affairs in Rumbek Mosques, Sheik Yousif Mabor Majak, Islam in Wau is mostly accepted by the local community and Islamic organizations are going to provide more education. They will also include training for Islamic elders for South Sudan. He said that Islam is going to compete in more activities before everything in Southern Sudan.
Wau town also has nine mosques proving training to over 600 children for Quran reading.
In 1997, the SPLA tried to capture Wau but the late SPLA/M leader Dr. John Garang De Mabior refused the assault and said that Wau is the bridge between SPLA and the Khartoum government and if we capture Wau, then we will have cut off the communication network between SPLA and the government which is not correct to happen as Southern Sudan is not a separate country from Northern Sudan. Therefore, many SPLA commanders felt unhappy.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 grants everyone in Sudan the right for freedom of religion, “and we have to make use of religion for solving problems in Sudan," said Sheik Majak.
“Religion is the belief between you and your own God whom you trust will provide you with everlasting peace," said Majak.
But the town also has a large Christian presence, as demonstrated on Christmas, when large crowds turned out to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, Majak said he recognizes Wau town as a centre for peace among all ten states of Southern Sudan. “We only feel peace in Wau and rest of the other states like Lakes state, Warrap, Aweil, and Bor, indeed we really have no concern there because there is no strong Islamic preaching,” he said.
He noted that in Southern Sudan only Warrap state has no mosque, since the one mosque was bombed during the war period and has not been renovated because the state government harasses Muslims in the areas.
Infrastructure in Wau is very good; roads and electricity are provided 24-hours a day by the government while security in Western Bhar-El-Gazal state is very accurate. The state assembly of Western Bhar-El-Gazal state is not built but since 2008, the state assembly has passed just two bills, said the assembly clerk.
The state even is wealth enough to have a place where animals are kept as a zoo. In Christmas, about 200 animals are shown for free in the Wau zoo. The zoo is seriously guarded by wildlife staff.
According to NGO officials, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal gets clean water supplied from about 200 hand-pumps dug within Wau town and villages as well have about 100 hand-pumps. The state government of Wau is planning to extend electricity to the rural areas but a survey has not yet reached the rural areas.
Furthermore, everyone in Wau is busy building concrete houses and fences that are built with band bricks. Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has built a fence and good offices in Wau town.
The UNMIS also have what are called "quick impact projects," which usually support the local community for funding any project dispatching peace activities and upgrading venerable people in the areas.
Wau market is regulated by laws; no businessman can hike up his price of his own will like in Lakes state and Warrap state. There are bars in Wau and all drinking is designated for evening hours. Tobacco (tobacco chica), which is export from Egypt to Sudan, has conquered Western Bhar-El-Gazal state as the majority of youths and elders are found at evening gathering at one place to smoke this tobacco chica. Police try to stop smoking of chica but to no avail.
The Western Bhar El-Gazal state is the foremost in sport among the ten states of Southern Sudan. They win CPA golden gift in 2007 CPA anniversary in their own hometown and indeed also the win match in 2008 in North Sudan state of Dongola in different games. The Governor of Western Bhar-EL-Gazal state H.E. Lt. Gen Mark Nyipuoc Obang requested that Wau inhabitants turn out in Wau for the welcoming of players in Wau airport in 2008 while policemen used the brass band. The day players arrived was declared to be a holiday.
The state government of Wau provides a cultural theater whereby drama, actors and other music bands demonstrate their activities. The room entering to the theater is one main door and everyone small or big is asked to pay an entrance fee which is only five pound Sudanese. Police control the fence while security agents secretly enter for free of charge to secure the grounds.
TRANSPORT AND HEALTH
Over 50 percent of travellers in Wau use motorcycles, 40 percent use bicycles and 10 percent use land-cruiser cars and trucks making business. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) really supports the local community in health and sanitations works. They also provide medicine.
UNMIS is deeply involved in bringing peace to the local clan that disputed for several years.
Meanwhile, the maintenance of health care units remain a collaboration among the state government and local NGOs in Western Bhar-El-Gazal state, as well as IRC, UNICEF, Red cross, Oxfam, though they failed to provide drugs sometimes.
The state hospital owned by the government of Wau has little equipment and few professional doctors as midwives are common. There are training supported by NGOs that help the state government to maintain a few qualified staff to run the state hospital with commitment. “The birth period has have killed more the 1 percent of women here in Wau," said midwife Deborah Martin.
People who brought here with gunshot wounds and those beaten in the head with black sticks are no longer common like during the war period. Now with the adoption of peace, the cultures of Wau have changed from ones of war into cultures of peace.
“We are not worried for any harm but God is out protecting because our youth are having no AK-47 in the areas," said Peter Juma. He affirmed that police, military and the joint integrated unit (JIU) are our protections here in Wau.
The state is nice in communication, it has five network system that include; Gemtel, Sudani, Mobitel, Sudantel and MTN network. The rural areas are still using African traditional passing of information from man to man. Civilians are used to carrying mobile phones daily to communicate with their relatives both inside and outside the country.
There are also a lot of challenges in buying the scratch card for phone in Wau town; the card priced at 10 pounds is auctioned out for 13 pound. All scratch cards are set at a fixed price from the industrial unit but local businessmen increase the prices for the cards, which they usually bring from Khartoum.