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Conference Held on Southern Sudan Development  - 2004-10-01

A Kenyan government minister has warned southern Sudanese community leaders not to rely too heavily on donor aid to rebuild and develop their region. The area has been the scene of a 21-year civil war, but a peace agreement is nearly completed. The Kenyan official spoke at the beginning of a three-day conference on what southern Sudan will need if peace is restored.

Kenyan Planning and National Development Minister Peter Anyang'Nyong'o told participants that southern Sudan needs short-term humanitarian aid from abroad. But he warned the officials from the region not to rely too heavily on donor aid to support long-term development strategies.

Mr. Anyang'Nyong'o said many African governments had fallen into what he called the trap of depending on donor aid to achieve their long-term development plans.

"The result is that some of these countries have undergone four decades of truncated development that has led to nowhere because every three to five years, a development fad comes along and all past efforts are given up for new ones," said Peter Anyang'Nyong'o.

More than two decades of civil war have left the south with virtually no roads, schools, markets, or other basic facilities.

The Sudanese government and the south's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, are on the verge of signing a final peace deal to end 21 years of war.

So officials are looking ahead at how to deliver basic services in the area if the peace accord is signed. They want to build roads, ports, schools, and other infrastructure and provide services such as health care.

The secretary-general of the Federation of Sudanese Civil Society Organizations, Peter Adwok, explains the development priorities.

"The first, of course, will be the roads, you see, to be able to link up the production areas with the markets, both local and also international. In fact, linked to the roads also is the river channels," said Peter Adwok. "You need to really invest in improving these facilities - building of barges that can now carry people and be able to carry goods."

One participant in the Nairobi conference, Bishop Paride Taban of the Catholic Diocese of Torit, in southern Sudan, experienced first-hand some of the region's problems as he tried to make his way to the meeting.

"I decided to come with my land cruiser, and the rain was so heavy. I move[d] only 100 kilometers and the car stopped," said Bishop Taban. "We had to spend the night. We had to order a tractor - John Deere - to come and pull us. The tractor took also about 12 hour[s] to reach us. Pulling us back took us another 24 hours. Yesterday I arrive[ed] very tired."

Participants in the conference say they will need a huge amount of money and other resources to begin to deliver the benefits of peace to the people of southern Sudan.

But first they need a peace accord. The Sudanese government and the southern rebels have been negotiating a peace deal to end the war for the past two years. The two sides have agreed to a number of arrangements including wealth and power sharing. They are to resume talks October 7 and are expected to finalize the peace agreement soon.