South Sudan Border Issues

These images are part of a forthcoming feature on border communities in south Sudan’s Upper Nile state. Upper Nile forms the northern most border of southern Sudan and contains a significant amount of the region’s oil wealth.

These photos were taken in the town of Renk, which sits some 30 kilometers south of the Current Border Line (CBL). Renk is a relatively short jaunt from Khartoum, making it a highly mixed community. It is heavily populated by northern Sudanese traders and is a frequent destination for northerners who want a break from the Islamic laws that govern the north. Renk’s lively streets boast an unusual amount of nightlife, including restaurants, bars and shops.

Given Renk’s proximity to northern Sudan and the presence of multinational oil companies, Renk is significantly more developed than most areas of the south. The streets are lined with lights and residents enjoy 24 hour power, two highly uncommon services throughout the area.

Some fear, however, that the culturally mixed nature of border communities like Renk could make for a combustive atmosphere around the referendum. Furthermore, the region’s oil wealth could be a source of conflict between north and south if southerners do opt for secession.

The full story, done in print (by Maggie Fick), photos and video, is slated to appear on Al Jazeera online in the coming days.

Stay tuned.