September 4, 2005


In Sudan, the Pull of Peace and Oil: Expats From South Stream Homeward As Region Rebuilds (Emily Wax, September 4, 2005, Washington Post)

Wearing a bright orange jersey and baggy jeans, Riang Thian, 27, sauntered into a thatch-roofed bar and made a request in his acquired Tennessee twang.

"Ya'll have high-speed Internet?" the recently returned refugee asked, getting only blank looks in response. "Oh man," he said, "my country needs a lot of work."

With peace in place after a 21-year civil war and the discovery of oil in the region, southern Sudan, one of the poorest places in Africa, suddenly has the potential to become one of the richest. It is luring home people such as Thian and galvanizing veterans of its long guerrilla war. As a new society emerges, roads and schools are being built, and the Internet is not far behind. [...]

More than 2,000 Sudanese professionals have returned from East Africa and the West since the north-south peace accord was signed in January. They include businessmen, college professors and basketball players, as well as recent graduates hoping to land a job. Some have reunited with family members; others, like Thian, have moved into tent-hotels set up by an American firm.

"We're not talking about reconstruction. We are talking about total construction. The U.N. has never undertaken anything like this," said David Gressly, the head of U.N. operations in southern Sudan. "The opportunities here are tremendous. But so are some of the risks."

On July 31, just weeks after Thian returned, John Garang, the leader of the southern rebel movement and key architect of the peace deal, died in a helicopter crash, causing concern that the shaky agreement would collapse.

Thian said he prayed when he heard the news and then unwound in his tent, spinning hip-hop songs on his CD player. But rioting soon broke out in the capital, Khartoum, and in the southern city of Juba, pitting Muslim northerners against Christian and animist southerners.

Violence has since subsided, and Salva Kiir Mayardit, Garang's longtime deputy in the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, has taken his place as the nation's vice president.

Just another Administration success story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 4, 2005 12:00 AM
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