“A new Sudan is possible”

Sudan has gone through more than 50 years of political instability. Since South Sudan's autonomic demands to the Jartum Muslim Government, provoked the First Civil War in 1955, the region has not been able to surface in spite of the mock peace agreements. The 2005 Armistice did not put an end to the Second Civil War, with a death toll of 2 million people. Since then, the recovery of the country's balance still depends on an efficient policy regarding oil since "the oil business represents the salary of a great part of the Sudanese workers", according to Guiney.

The Jesuit Refugee Service has been working in Africa for more than twenty years with the goal of shedding some light on the forgotten conflicts of this enormous continent. Its work in Sudan has been focused in assisting millions of displaced and refugees generated by successive conflicts in the region, especially in the South, in the border with Uganda, where the continuous flow of people is also threatened by guerrilla activities.

In addition to accompanying and working for the re insertion of the displaced returning to their places of origin, the JRS activity at the refugee camps is very much oriented towards education, since they consider that a basic education is the most efficient way to heal wounds and ensure understanding between the citizens in order to end ethnic conflicts. It is precisely on this issue where the JRS philosophy connects with the philosophy of Entreculturas: "to educate is to give opportunities" and the least we can offer these people who have lost all, is the opportunity to recover their dignity and their hope.

Closing schools

"Perseverance is most important. During these last 20 years, hostilities between the Central Government and the guerrilla of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army have very much limited the JRS and other NGOs activity" says Guiney. "In addition, the incursions of the Lord's Resistance Army have forced us to close several schools". The LRA was founded by Joseph Kony at the end of the 80s, so as to impose on society the biblical commandments through extremely violent activities. Given the proximity, the youth and boys and girls which make up this guerrilla cross the border to Sudan to rob and threaten the population.

In view of the risk that the LRA may kidnap, rape or kill their children, the parents forbid the children to go to school. In view of the inactivity and risk, the Jesuits are forced to close the school and re distribute the pupils between other safer schools.

As is usual in the poorer regions, that in addition suffer a general instability, the women suffer the worst consequences. In the case of Sudan, the conflict's context means for them to suffer sexual abuse in addition to the fact that Muslim fundamentalism denies education and social promotion to women, forcing them to degrading hiding and submission. In view of this, the JRS has adopted from the beginning a gender equity programme in schools. Without degrading their traditions but so as to defend the basic rights of Sudanese women, the JRS has made a great effort to level the education toll between boys and girls and to generate, mainly, self esteem in the latter. "Sudanese women should realize that it is also up to them to build a new Sudan", concludes Guiney.

In the face of these circumstances, one should expect that President Omar Hassan el Bashir and the leaders of South Sudan make the 2005 Peace Agreements effective and that they may adopt dialogue as a priority way to define their interests. It is also necessary that the Jartum Government give the UN and the African Union the go ahead signal to deploy a joint peace force in Darfur, where the current situation is extremely fragile.