PANYAGOR, Jonglei State, Southern Sudan — As we bumped along a potholed, badly rutted and unpaved road in a hired 4×4 car on our way to Duk Padiet, site of a deadly attack in September 2009, our Dinka language translator Mabior said, “For many people here, there are only two things, sleeping and eating. People have given up on hoping for more.”
Mabior, a 23-year old student at John Garang Institute of Science and Technology in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, told me that he thinks people are waiting for tomorrow to go and fight, there is no other way, as he put it “things have just gone to fighting.” He said that after John Garang—the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, during the war, and the man attributed with making the landmark 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement a reality—died, the people of the South knew that the chance of unity and a “New Sudan” that represented the diversity of its peoples was no longer possible. As a local government official in the rural town of Panyagor told me, “after Garang died, unity became just a slogan.”
Mabior was a very young boy when the brutal Bor massacre of 1991 occurred, which worsened a deepening split within the South’s main rebel movement, the SPLA. But his village was close to Bor, and he heard about the horrors of that day. As an educated man, working as a journalist and studying to become a pharmacist, Mabior is well aware of the sentiment of his fellow southerners, who he says are justified in their fears and lost hope. Traveling through one part of Jonglei state, one of the few areas that has a small semblance of basic infrastructure (an unpaved but functional road) made it abundantly clear that the idea that “peace dividends” have not reached the local level is no slogan.