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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January 2005, 12:09 GMT
South Sudan's unlikely capital
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Rumbek

Man riding along a dusty road in Rumbek, Sudan
Rumbek's dusty roads have few vehicles

With no multi-storey buildings or paved roads and a population of under 100,000 - the ramshackle town of Rumbek has been chosen by Sudan's former southern rebels as the unlikely administrative capital of the south.

But there is plenty of optimism around the town, with the peace deal - which gives the south a greater say in running its affairs - still fresh in the memory.

"Rumbek will be like a small London," Makok, a smiling legal officer, told me as he gave us a lift on the back of his motorbike - one of the few in town.

"It will be like America even, because America is the top in the world," he said.

But the reality for the town is that although peace has finally come after 21 years of civil war, almost everything will have to be built from scratch.

New roofs

The airstrip is a dirt track where goats graze alongside the rusting remains of an aircraft which once crash-landed.

Bombed building in Rumbek, Sudan
Money for development and investment finally should come from domestic resources
UN's Jan Pronk

The brick buildings along the untarred roads are now empty shells - testament to the intense fighting the area saw during the war, which left an estimated 1.5 million dead.

People live in traditional thatched huts and hardly anyone has electricity or running water.

"There has been no rebuilding because we only reached a [peace] settlement the other day," said Gordon Mappel, an administrator from the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - the former rebel group.

"We are going to have roads; we are going to have roofs; we are going to have nice buildings - if the implementation is done."

Competing currencies

One of the smarter buildings in Rumbek is the town's newly opened bank.

When the north introduced a new currency - the Sudanese dinar - in 1999, the south rejected it.

In Rumbek it is possible to spend Kenyan shillings, US dollars, Ugandan shillings and Sudan's old currency - the pound.

"There is no confusion at all," bank manager Samson Arab Efrem said from his computerless office.

"We have all the rates fixed. As people get used to the economic environment here they get to know all the different rates."

But in time, people will also have to get used to another new currency - to be introduced throughout Sudan - promised as part of the peace agreement.

Dollars will flow

Funds for the reconstruction of towns like Rumbek should arrive soon.

Thatched houses in Rumbek, Sudan
Most Rumbek residents have no running water or electricity
Under the terms of the peace deal, the government of southern Sudan will share oil revenue equally with the mainly Arab government in the north.

Hundreds of millions and perhaps even billions of dollars will flow to SPLM leader John Garang's new administration.

"This country ought not to beg around the world in the long run," Jan Pronk the head of the United Nations in Sudan said on his first visit to Rumbek this week.

"Money for development and investment finally should come from domestic resources."

While the South finds its feet and tries to cope with the expected return of millions of people displaced by the war, the UN has appealed for over $600m to cover development projects this year.




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