How can the largest country in Africa have a region with no medical facilities, large buildings, roads, schools or economy? These are everyday expectations that are taken for granted in most of the world but in southern and western Sudan they are eagerly sought after.
Paul Nantulya, peacebuilding and governance manager from Catholic Relief Services Southern Sudan region, came to Villanova University to speak with faculty and students about the peacebuilding work CRS is engaging in with the people of Sudan.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and has been at war since 1956. Currently, southern Sudan is working on a new government and trying to implement a peace agreement that was signed in 2005.
“Even though in the south we are operating in an environment where a peace agreement has been signed, many stereotypes are still very strong and are very resilient along religious lines, along political lines and along ethnic lines. It makes working in Southern Sudan an extremely complex and difficult challenge,” Nantulya said.
CRS is dedicated to assisting the Sudanese to build peace among themselves in this time of turmoil. Assisting citizens and leaders through education, conflict management and mediation, promoting tolerance, reconciliation and stereotype reduction throughout southern Sudan are the goals.
“I think this work will help many Sudanese people. This service is more in depth with the issues. It does not just make one person deal with an issue but researches it and finds out why and then works to prevent the problem,” Emily Lewis, freshmen communication major who attended the event, said.
In April 2008, CRS completed an intensive nine-month peace building and conflict transformation program, which brought leaders from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to the United States at Eastern Mennonite University to develop skills to resolve conflict.
“Sudan is a country that has been at war for very many years and has not been able to realize its potential in terms of agriculture,” Nantulya said.
Sudan, Nantulya said, has the potential to grow enough food to feed all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Food security is an extremely important aspect of any peace -building process. In addition, exporting food allows a country to earn money and further development.
Southern Sudan goes without laws, regulations or an efficient government structure. CRS is working to bring a sense of stability and peace to the southern Sudanese government and its citizens.
“I thought that was extremely interesting was the fact that CRS is out in the Sudan for a purpose to save lives but yet their own lives are in complete danger,” Michelle Costa, freshman communications major in attendance, said.
In regions like southern Sudan, conflicts occur when resources are sparse, Nantulya said. To combat these basic needs, CRS assisted in developing water and sanitation programs, which allows citizen access to clean water, “something we might take for granted in countries like the United States, but in Sudan these kinds of facilities are very difficult to come by,” Nantulya said.
CRS wants to provide an opportunity for Sudanese children to receive a quality education, putting funds into building schools and training teachers. Health care is another pivotal issue. CRS dedicates time and assistance to constructing clinics and health centers as well as training health care workers and providing medicine.
Peacebuilding programs that CRS has started in southern Sudan help to make sure the citizens are receiving all that has been negotiated in the peace agreement.
If citizens are not seeing all that was promised in the peace agreement, they will lose confidence and eventually the peace agreement will collapse. CRS is working to ensure that the peace agreement does not fail the people and the conflict subsides.
Despite the current conflict and safety concerns for aide workers, CRS has been present in Sudan since 1971 and consistently pours their time and money into the stability of the country.
“Peace is not just the absence of war, but it is a process of establishing the broken lines of trust, reaching out to the other side,” Nantulya said.