Rebecca Hamilton

Bentiu, Sudan—Two days ago, President Omar Al Bashir made what is likely to be his last visit to Juba, the southern capital, as the head of a unified Sudan. Promising to be “the first to recognize the south” if southerners vote for independence in this weekend’s referendum, Al Bashir’s conciliatory tone left people here scratching their heads about his real intentions. Mistrust of his ruling National Congress party is intense in the south, and, until last week, officials in Khartoum had been uniformly hostile about the possibility of secession.

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Juba, Sudan—In just four days, the people of southern Sudan will begin voting in a referendum on whether to become an independent nation. In hundreds of interviews over the past six years here, I have yet to meet a southerner who doesn’t want freedom from northern rule. People here are literally counting down the minutes until the vote. (At a roundabout in the center of town, an electronic countdown on an advertising billboard has been running the days, hours, and minutes remaining since October.) It is hard to convey what it feels like in the southern Sudan capital of Juba.

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Abyei, Sudan—On October 19, Bulbul Deng was detained at a government checkpoint as he traveled by bus back from a medical appointment in Khartoum to his home in Abyei, a region situated in the heart of Sudan. At the checkpoint, Deng says the men onboard were forced to lie face-down on the ground, while the Sudanese government soldiers, carrying wooden sticks and AK-47s, asked who among them had fought against the government in violence that destroyed part of Abyei in 2008.

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Khartoum—Amira* is the attractive 16-year-old daughter of an Iraqi mother and Sudanese father. She spent the first ten years of her life in Iraq, where her family lived in an apartment in a multi-story house in Baghdad, just around the corner from her grandmother.

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In late February 2004, Janjaweed militias and Sudanese government forces waged a three-day, coordinated assault on Tawila, a village in northern Darfur. Government aircrafts destroyed buildings, while the Janjaweed broke into a girls’ boarding school, forced the students to strip naked at gunpoint, and then gang-raped and abducted many of them. Video footage shows fly-covered corpses strewn among the village's smoldering ruins.

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Left Behind

NYALA, Darfur -- When Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March, he responded by expelling 13 international aid agencies from Darfur and disbanding three other domestic relief groups. Khartoum claims the organizations were sharing information with the ICC, which both the groups and the court deny. With the void left by the ousted organizations, the United Nations has instituted emergency measures to help provide food, water, and other vital aid.

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