Driving southwest from Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, to the town of Yei, near the Congolese border, it’s hard to miss the clear signs—literal and otherwise—of the impact of decades of war and insecurity on this region.
On certain stretches of the four and a half hour drive, signs warning travelers to stay on the road in order to avoid landmines appear every few miles. Trucks and equipment belonging to the Mine Action Group and other NGOs working to demine the 100-mile stretch from Juba to Yei are found at various points along the road. According to locals, both the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, laid the mines during the 23-year long civil war between the Khartoum regime’s forces and the SPLA of the South.
A rusty tank is hard to miss as we bump along the occasionally heavily potholed road in a 4×4. One can only guess at how many remaining landmines, unexploded cluster bombs and other dangerous remnants of war remain. It will take time for the road and the surrounding areas between Juba and Yei to be safe and free from the remaining threats of the devastating war that ended in 2005, leaving an estimated two million people dead. In the meantime, anyone who travels along this road can’t help but be reminded of these horrors in Sudan’s recent history. As one traveler, I can say that the reminder comes eerily – at a time when the fragile peace created by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is put to the test.