Entreculturas committed to South Sudan
Agustín Alonso, Entreculturas Director, is just back from a field trip to South Sudan, accompanied by Joe Hampson, regional Jesuit Refugee Service Director for Eastern Africa and Ken Thering, JRS Director in Sudan. Experts in the country's socio political situation, they showed Agustín the reality of Juba, South Sudan's capital, and Nimule, a region together with Labone, where according to the UN most of the refugees from Uganda are expected to return. This is his experience:
"I have spent a week in South Sudan to visit on the field the project we will carry out following a recent agreement with the AECI. The objective is to re establish education conditions in South Sudan, in the border area with Uganda, so that the Sudanese refugees who are currently at the Adumani and Mojo camps in Uganda and who plan to return to the country, may have their basic literacy needs covered.
South Sudan, with 11 million inhabitants and approximately the same extension as Spain, is a region which has been at war during 20 years with North Sudan. According to experts, one of the most pressing problems is the intention of Jartum to extend Arabism all over the Sudanese territory. The Southern part is multi religious, there are Catholics, Protestants, Animists... and however the Northern part is mainly Muslim and has always tried to impose the Sharia on the black Africans. The fighting has provoked two million dead and four million displaced although in January 2005 the Peace Agreements were signed and South Sudan was recognized as autonomy, the truth is that as of today, there still exists a strong tension between North and South, also motivated by certain geo strategic interests.
The idea is to hold a referendum on 2011 to ask if the population would be in favour of a total independence for South Sudan; it seems that 85% of the population would support this. Everyone is very proud of their autonomy and signs all around can be read with "New Sudan, New Sudan", in reference to the name of the new territory if it were to become independent". It is also important to mention that South Sudan has the implicit support of the U.S., which had previously attacked Jartum.
South Sudan has enough richness and resources to be independent, but they have to make a great effort of reconstruction and promote their development because they are currently in misery conditions. The main problem of South Sudan is the infrastructures conditions and communication difficulties which make any trip take hours. This raises the price of raw materials and products coming from Kampala (Uganda).
With the progressive peace process of the area, the purpose of the Entreculturas project that will start with the AECI´s financing and the JRS field experience, is to set the conditions in the border region with Uganda to receive and therefore encourage the return of the refugees, given the fact that after 20 years of settlement in Uganda, they do not want to return to their country since they have their economic, education and sanitary needs covered at the camps. However, when they return to their country, they find their lands occupied and the country's infrastructures are very deficient.
This is our first strong support to Africa, beyond our education work at the refugee camps and for us it is a very important challenge, an urgent need and an opening to a continent that shows a great capacity for improvement. Luckily, the JRS has a great prestige in South Sudan, mainly due to its work in community leaders and teacher training, in addition to its education activities with children, in school construction and maintenance. Sincerely, it gives me great confidence to see that those in charge of this are very well prepared and have a great knowledge of the field.