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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Southern Sudan's frontline town
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Juba, southern Sudan

Juba is the largest and most developed town in southern Sudan, but remains a collection of mud huts and half-derelict buildings.

Women near water pump
Few Juba residents have running water
The electricity supply is intermittent and hardly anyone has running water.

Juba remained under government control throughout the 21-year civil war despite being surrounded on all sides by rebel forces.

Tens of thousands of troops and countless tons of military hardware were flown in to reinforce this island of northern control from repeated rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) offensives.

When under the terms of a peace agreement signed in January, government troops eventually withdraw, it will become the capital and seat of the new SPLM-controlled southern administration.

In the meantime the much smaller Rumbek is serving as a temporary capital.

Ethnic rivalries

The transfer of power in Juba from the government to the SPLM will not be easy.

The communities who live in Juba are not natural supporters of the ethnic Dinka-dominated former rebels.

We are here for reconciliation and here for forgiveness
James Wani Igga
SPLM official
During the civil war local militia armed by Khartoum fought against their fellow southerners.

Juba's governor and leader of the pro-government Mandari militia Clement Wani, says that in clashes in the 1980s, rebels sexually abused women in his ethnic group and killed civilians.

Against a backdrop of such bitterness the SPLM has set up an office on Juba high street.

Its front, brightly painted with the flag of New Sudan, stands out among the pokey shops selling tinned food and soft drinks.

A first moderately attended rally was held in Peace Square amid cries of "Down, Down Old Sudan" and "Welcome, Welcome New Sudan."


Perhaps with ethnic sensitivities in mind, former Juba resident and SPLM secretary general James Wani Igga headed the first former rebel delegation.

"After the fight you are reconciled and you become friends again," Mr Wani Igga said from the comfort of the government guesthouse.

"We are here for reconciliation and here for forgiveness."

Talks to prevent violence between rival factions, so called "South-South dialogue" are under way in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The arrival of the SPLM is the only visible sign Juba's residents have had that peace is here to stay.

A midnight curfew is still in force and checkpoints restrict movement in and out of town.

With little access to farm land or trade, Juba has had to rely on supplies flown in from Khartoum.

Prices here are double that of the north and shops are full of tinned food not fresh produce.


For the long-suffering town, February 2005 brought a terrifying reminder of its recent past.

A weapons depot exploded showering mortars across town and flattening the main market and killing 24 people.

Man on the banks of the White Nile
Juba has a river but little farmland
For many, the two-hour ordeal was worse than any wartime shelling.

Two months on, unexploded ordnance and shells are still strewn around town.

The corrugated iron marketplace is a twisted metal mess but business continues.

Young men stand by piles of second hand clothes they have smuggled from Kenya by bicycle from the border town of Yei.

In a steamy wooden bar, beers are proudly pulled out of a warm fridge.

A bottle of Ugandan beer has halved in price since the peace deal - a sign perhaps that controls are being gradually eased.


No one knows how many displaced people have returned home to settle in Juba since the peace agreement was signed.

Conditions in the south are so bad that aid agencies are not helping people go back and no one is counting those who have returned on foot or by bicycle.

Former rebel soldier guarding plane in southern Sudan
After 21 years of war, southern Sudan is one of the poorest parts of the world
"As there is nothing being given to the returnees, they've got no incentive to register or collect at any particular point," one aid worker said.

Instead of targeting returnees for particular help, aid agencies are trying to improve conditions for all southerners.

Some $4.5bn was pledged at an international donor conference to start building southern Sudan from scratch.

The SPLM says their first priority with the money will be to open up and then improve the roads - allowing the millions of displaced southerners to return home and for trade to begin.

With life expectancy of just 42 years and only one in four southerners capable of reading, hospitals and schools will also be high on the list.

Watch Kofi Annan address the conference

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