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Views in Wau, South Sudan: we must make strive for our own peace

By Ngor Arol Garang

April 6, 2011 (WAU) - While south Sudan’s anticipated independence on 9 July 2011, is fast approaching as both the government officials and ordinary people across the ten states and counties prepare for celebration day, international experts and citizens are becoming more concerned about the violence threatening peace and stability in the oil producing region.

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South Sudanese pro-separation demonstrator. Separation is coming, but how to maintain peace? (Reuters)

Sudan conducted a referendum on self determination between 9 and 15 January 2011. On 7 January, the commission charged with organisation of the referendum process announced results in favour of secession of the south from the north of Sudan, several years after repeated demands and wars seeking independence. The south cannot, however, operate independently until 9 July as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The vote was part of the 2005 deal which brought to an end the over two decades of north-south conflict involving the former rebel, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a military wing of current South Sudan’s governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) against the central government in Khartoum.

Conducting sample interviews in the former provincial capital for Greater Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan Tribune met with predominantly young people who unanimously spoke the language of peace.

"We need peace. We do not need war. If there are people who need war then they have a challenge to explain why they are doing the opposite at the time the region desperately needs stability and development. I repeat we need peace not war," explained Mawien Baak, a former child soldier who left the southern army in 2006.

Baak said he was one of the minors who walked all the way from Bahr el Ghazal in 1987 to the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, where the former southern rebels had established training camps.

"I was one of the people and children who walked for nearly four months, all the way from the Bahr el Ghazal region to Ethiopia for training. One of the reasons why we walked such a long distance was not because of anything else. It was for peace and stability to prevail in the South. We wanted our people to be free from all sorts of treatments from the north. And it would be ridiculous to start fighting one another after having unanimously fought the war as a block. No. There must be peace," said Baak.

Michael Abui, a businessman from the Central Equatoria State in a separate interview at Sukajar in Wau, said the South Sudanese should stop blaming other people for their problems. "We have a bad culture here in South Sudan. This is not new thing. I cannot say it started with the young generation. It did not start with us, or in this time of ours. It has been here. It likes something we inherited from our elders. The culture of blaming someone else for our own mistakes is not a new thing in the south," explained Abui, saying it must be discouraged by all means possible.

"We must try our level best to change this culture, he said. There are people in the south, even if they know things are bad because of their own makings, they will try by all means to blame others. This culture must be stopped and we must work together for peace and development of this country," said Abui.

Mary Bazangua, an international relief organisation worker in Wau, asked those involved in the conflict to stop and to listen to the voices calling for peace.

"There is nothing we are looking for now in the south but peace. Those involved in the fighting must respond to voices for peace. Their interest should not supersede the common interest of our people which is peace, whether they are right or not," said Bazangua.

Reverend James Ukiah echoed the idea that there is no reason to blame someone else for mistakes originally made by individuals and officials South Sudan.

"We are the ones fighting each other. We should not blame other people for our mistakes. What I think we should do is to be realistic and simply accept our mistakes and ask for forgiveness," said Ukiah. He agreed with the initiative taken by South Sudan President to pardon some of those who rebelled against the government.

" The north may be involved by giving support in form of arms, so that our people continue to fight and kill themselves, but our people and leadership should take responsibility. We must accept that these are mistake we made ourselves and we should be people be the same people to solve them."