Sudan Prepares to Break Apart

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"The suffering of southerners was created in colonial times," says Peter Lam, a retired teacher in his 70s from Malakal, a trading town in Sudan where north meets south on the banks of the Nile River. As Sudan's second independence approaches, we are discussing the first, and what has gone wrong.

Lam tells me that Britain's colonial neglect of the south meant that when it came to negotiations for independence, southern "native chiefs" were conned by the sophisticated northern "teachers and philosophers" into accepting a deal that united the country under a single government in Khartoum. "When independence came we felt deceived by unity and we revolted," recalls Lam.

In fact, Sudan's civil war began in 1955, the year before the country gained independence. The people of southern Sudan, an oil-rich but terribly poor region where most of the 9 million or so inhabitants have either Christian or animist beliefs, say they never got their independence. That is why they fought the dominance of the Arab Muslims of northern Sudan for the better part of fifty years. At last, they believe, independence is coming. "Now is our real independence," Lam says with a broad smile. "The south has already gone."...

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