Transit camps in Kuajok: Truck carries voters' belongings into Southern Sudan
Preliminary results are now in for the Southern Sudan referendum vote which will decide the future of the nation.
Sara Lukey-Smith, a Cambridge aid worker with the charity World Vision, is based in the southern city of Juba.
With 99% of the south voting for secession, Sara said: "People tell me they are hoping for development, stability and work, as a result."
Voting took place in Sudan from 9-15 January 2011 and the final results are expected to be announced in February.
If the preliminary result is confirmed, Africa's newest nation will formally declare its independence on 9 July.
Sara Lukey-Smith followed the voting process in her
online blog for BBC Cambridgeshire
and now reports from the country the day after the Southern Sudanese results were announced.
Juba, Southern Sudan: Monday 31 January 2011
My name is Sara Lukey-Smith and I have been in Juba working for World Vision for four months now. I'm here at a historic phase - I may witness the creation of a new country right before my very eyes.
While the final results of the full referendum are not expected until February, expectations among the local population are already high.
After decades of turmoil, the referendum process - borne out of a peace process in 2005 - is ushering in a fresh era of hope for communities across this troubled region.
Aid worker Sara Lukey-Smith follows the referendum process in Sudan
Community members at a village on the Sobat River in Upper Nile State are quick to share their post-referendum ambitions.
"Peace is the priority", then "good schools, clinics and roads", they tell me.
One man says he "will be waiting for the government to come and deliver stability and security so we can do our jobs".
It's dry and dusty here, the tukuls (circular thatched huts) are scattered, and to the eye it seems little has changed in years - except for the mobile phone masts now springing up across Southern Sudan.
World Vision has built a health clinic, trained healthcare workers and is finishing a water treatment plant on the river to provide clean drinking water. Plans to rehabilitate the ramshackle school building are also being developed.
With the announcement of the preliminary referendum results in Juba yesterday, I'd anticipated more visible signs across the town.
Children arriving in Kuajok after a three-day bus journey from Khartoum
Besides a ceremony at the John Garang Memorial Park, it seemed a more personal affair. People mostly held gatherings with family and friends - still awaiting the final results to be confirmed in a week or two's time.
Before coming to Southern Sudan, it seems one of the essential readings is Dave Eggers' book, What is the What (President Obama apparently advised his administration to read it too).
It's an autobiography of one of the 'Lost Boys' who at a young age fled the fighting of the civil war, walked hundreds of miles with other children to a refugee camp in Ethiopia and then on to another in Kenya, where he lived for most of his youth, before eventually being given a ticket to the US (not that life there proved to be easy).
I hope I'm not dismissed as some sentimental aid worker, but he lived through things that no one ever should.
Reading the book and speaking to people here, you realise how far this region has come in just a few years; how momentous this process is.
At the same time, the long-term impacts of such conflict must not be underestimated.
'This new era'
In previous blog entries I've quoted various statistics which emphasise the challenges in a region where a 15-year-old girl has more chance of dying in childbirth than completing school.
You see the offices and vehicles of the UN agencies and NGOs - busy responding to the various needs whether it be de-mining, child protection, healthcare, education, livelihoods or work.
Out in the counties, you see the signs detailing which donor has worked with which government ministry and NGO to build the health clinic, school or training centre.
People - communities and donors alike - require quick results, and while focus on impact is obviously crucial, states cannot be built in just five years.
From government structures, civil servants and financial mechanisms to public services, the tasks are enormous.
To create a stable, prosperous society takes continued engagement and support over decades. That's precisely why World Vision will continue to work with communities here as this new era of uncharted territory for Southern Sudan unfolds.
World Vision is a UK-based Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.
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• Am so optimistic to give a comment about the newly born country, let the whole world rejoice because countries have increased in number, not only that but also because people have come out of marginalization, oppression and suffering. That was a peace voting I have ever witnessed and heard amongst the third world countries. Thanks to all countries who help us to come out of that long lasting slavery that the northerners have not dreamt of to come.
Solomon Swaka Kamilo, Juba and Southern Sudan
• Nice writing Sara, but would be much better if we stick to the facts - You did not tell everyone about how you and all the "charity/aid" workers live in 5 star hotels and drive the top of the range 4x4 vehicles. How most of the food aid, is sent to the holding places, then sold again in the markets. The people are really suffering because no one cares or helps. The govt cheats them, all the companies pay bare min wages or none at all, conditions are about 100 ago. Facts not what you think people want to hear. I have been there many times and know them, and I was not aid/charity.
• Keep watching Sara. It's going be a history to all of us including you who are aid worker. History can not made itself alone but it's made by people. Thanks.
Duku Moses, Upper Nile Univeristy, Malakal, Southern Sudan
• Sara, keep the fire on. This all we have been waiting for. This will be a wonderful country. I can not wait to join Southern Sudanese come July 9 celebrations. God bless South Sudan.
Kariuki Gakuru, Barnsley, UK
• I would likes to thank God for giving us the new country.
• The Principles of Social Investment (PSI) now have a stronger mandate than early last year. What is there on site to show that slack is not goimg to be the long-term end result? How can equitable, environmentally friendly oil trade be shared in Sudan North-South today?
Genevieve Odongo, Katherine N.T. Australia
• This is actually a God-sent mission to the people of Sudan. God has seen women, children suffering and used you to deliver them. God bless you. Keep updating us.
• Like Sara says it is actually going to be a country in the making, and to experience that must be historic. The sad thing it is going to be one of the most underdeveloped in the world, and maybe there needs to be a lot of work done, to get it out of its deprivation. The question of who was to blame seems now totally irrelevant. Is it the north, or the oil-rich Arab countries which stood by, or is it the dictates of the World Bank and maybe international community... A new chapter is being opened regardless of the future consequences. It seems one more state wouldn't much matter to world geography but the real challenge will surely lie in improving the lot of the people and going beyond political ideologies, interests and outside linkages.
Marwan Asmar, Amman, Jordan
• If this referendum ends up with two countries at peace someone in Sudan should get the Nobel Peace Prize. However, seeing there is some border trouble at this early stage, if the people of the south think they'll get a peaceful ride (I hope so), but I'm an Africa sceptic when it comes to fairness and justice. They look like fantastic people. And I remember seeing aerial shots of the most neat and beautifully vegetated desert villages which were for no reason burned to the ground.
Jacquie Butterfield, Sydney, Australia
• Keep up Sara, we are behind you. Please update us.
Eric, Eldoret, Kenya
• I am very happy. I am sure it will change Sudan. [Edited comment]
Ashenafi, Mekelle, Ethiopia