Tag Archives: Sara Fajardo

Day of prayer and cleaning as independence awaits South Sudan

Sr. Kathy Arata of Solidarity with Southern Sudan came up with the idea for the 101 Days of Prayer campaign that so many Catholics throughout the world participated in. Photo by Kim Pozniak/Catholic Relief Services

By Sara Fajardo

Women bent over handmade brooms sweep the streets of southern Sudan’s capital of Juba free of dust each morning. On the few miles of paved city roads, concrete road dividers are brightened with freshly planted flowers and saplings. The entry gates of buildings and homes boast fresh green paint. The rows of robust trees along the road that houses the majority of southern Sudan’s Ministry offices are adorned with bright white banners that read “Happy Independent Day.”

Everywhere there are signs of Juba preparing to be ushered in as the world’s newest nation. Even the electoral countdown clock that once ticked away the hours left for southern Sudanese to cast their ballot for self-determination has been reconfigured to flash stats of the Republic of South Sudan’s pending nationhood: “East Africa’s newest nation #6, the United Nation’s Country #193 , Africa’s Youngest Nation.”

Recycling bins and newly minted trash cans are now found on main curb sides under signs that read: Keep Juba Clean and Green.

Even the Church is getting in on the act and has declared Friday, July 8th a day for “Prayer and Cleaning,” and has called on all southern Sudanese to: “clean your heart, clean your mind, clean your house, clean the streets,” in a symbolic act of purification, prayer and reconciliation.

On all fronts southern Sudan is putting its best forward to show the world the promise it holds.

Sara Fajardo is CRS’ regional information officer for eastern and southern Africa. She is reporting from Juba. CRS is a Caritas member.

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Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Darfur and South Sudan, North America, Peacebuilding, South Sudan, Sudan, United States

Tensions rise in Sudan’s Abyei region

by Sara Fajardo, CRS communications officer

The March 2 and 5 attacks in the contested oil rich region of Abyei, Sudan, have led to estimates of more than 100 dead and 20,000-25,000, nearly half the population, deserting Abyei town. Abyei is proving to be one of the most difficult areas to resolve between northern and southern Sudan: both lay claims to the land.

Previous incidences in May, 2008, in which Abyei town was attacked and burned have left people concerned that the violence might escalate. According to our church contacts in the region, people are moving south of Abyei, along the Kiir River.

While the city has been almost completely evacuated, the security situation in the areas south of Abyei where people have set up temporary homes remains stable. Initial reports show that the majority of people have fled to the neighboring community of Agok. Many of the people who fled are carrying numerous household items with them, which leads members of the Catholic Relief Services’ team (CRS is a Caritas member and part of the coordinated Caritas response in southern Sudan) on the ground to believe that they may have recently arrived to Abyei from northern Sudan. Returnees from northern Sudan could be the most vulnerable group and the ones with the greatest need for shelter and food assistance. Some former Abyei town residents set up homes in Agok the last time there was a flare up of violence in 2008. Continue reading

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Sudan votes: tears make way for hopes

Election officials count up ballots at Hai Jalaba Schoo in Juba, Sudan, after polls closed on Saturday, January 15, 2011. Southern Sudanese turned out en masse to cast their ballots to decide the future of their country. Sara Fajardo/Catholic Relief Services

by Renee Lambert, Emergency Coordinator

Young Sudanese polling officials sat inside a small two room school, silently unfolding ballots while national and international observers looked on.  It was just after 7 pm, the polls had closed 2 hours earlier. Outside the school the sun was setting, so the polling officials were counting by the light of small lanterns. Shadows of the young officials unfolding ballots bounced off the walls of the small room and goose bumps covered my arms as I realized the significance of what I was witnessing. My eyes had already welled with tears more times in the past week than could be counted on both hands, but this did not stop them from tearing up again. And I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t even a fraction of what the Sudanese polling officials and observers must be feeling. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Aid Success Story, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Darfur and South Sudan, North America, Peacebuilding, South Sudan, Sudan, United States

Sudan votes: scene from Port Juba

Women do their laundry after disembarking at the Juba river port. The journey from Khartoum down the River Nile is a 15-day trip. People arrived with their most precious belongings, which included cars, beds, and even horses. Photos by Karina O'Meara/Catholic Relief Services

by Karina O’Meara as told to Sara A. Fajardo

It was mid-morning when we arrived to the Juba River Port last week and it was jostling with the sounds of people unloading bedding, horses, cars, and cooking supplies, from the four open-air containers that flanked a large passenger boat.

An estimated 700 people had made the up to 15-day journey from Khartoum and Kosti to reach southern Sudan’s largest city. Each day thousands of people have been flooding into Juba and other main cities throughout southern Sudan, in the lead up to the referendum vote. People arrive on boats, planes, and buses daily. Continue reading

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Sudan votes: Polling Day

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By Sara A. Fajardo, CRS Communications Officer in Juba

People began arriving long before dawn. Some were rumored to have spent the night. By the time we arrived several hundred men and women snaked the grounds of St. Kizito parish in Juba, Sudan. The men stood in one line. The women stood in another. Many carried radios and listened for news of the turnout to Sudan’s historic vote in their home counties. Women whispered, radios hummed, and a few tired children whimpered as they nestled into their mother’s welcoming backs.

All waited patiently. Their time had come. It was time for them to cast their ballot. This was there once-in-a-lifetime chance to vote to decide whether or not southern Sudan will secede from the north or remain united with northern Sudan.

“I thought I’d be the first,” the men chimed happily, “I was here at 5 this morning,” said one, “I got here at 4,” said another.

The women arrived a bit later – they had to tend to their morning chores before setting out to cast their ballots. The feeling was festive, many dressed in their Sunday finest, freshly polished heels, bright red dresses, others were in t-shirts or clutching bags that read Vote for a Peaceful Sudan.

We arrived a full hour before the polls opened. By the time election officials finally signaled for the first voter to enter and cast their ballot, promptly at 8 a.m. at least a 1,000 had gathered.

The ballots are simple, with rampant rates of illiteracy in southern Sudan, two diagrams accompany written choices of their options. Two hands firmly clasped signified a vote for a unified Sudan, a single raised hand is a vote for secession.

People clutched their voting cards firmly until it was their turn to approach the voting booth. Election officials scanned their card, looked up the corresponding number, took their fingerprint, and handed them a ballot. Each one was given careful instructions on how to fold their vote. A thumbprint is needed to mark each voter’s choice. If the ink hasn’t dried sufficiently and the ballot is folded incorrectly the ink might smear ballot and render it unreadable.

Instructions were carefully followed. Voters took their time at the cardboard booth with plastic yellow curtains for privacy. The wind rustled the trees above the open-air polling place. One-by-one they tested their ballots to assure themselves it was fully dried, and then they carefully folded the thick paper and slipped into the sealed plastic electoral box. Before they exited they dipped their index finger into purple indelible ink to prove they’d voted and to prevent people from voting twice. The electoral process will take until January 15th. But for the majority of the Sudanese, today was the day, January 9th, marked a turning point in their history.

“I’m going to slaughter a ram in celebration,” said Raemijuns Amoi Okole, 56, who arrived from Ghana six months ago. Many expressed similar plans. “This is the day we’ve waited for,” was the common refrain, “the day we get to vote for a peaceful Sudan.”

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