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Bullet did not stop resolve for southern Sudan independence

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    http://www.smh.com.au/world/bullet-did-not-stop-resolve-for-southern-sudan-independence-20101114-17srv.html Bullet did not stop resolve for southern Sudan
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 14, 2010
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      Bullet did not stop resolve for southern Sudan independence

      Jason Koutsoukis
      November 15, 2010
         AGOK, Sudan: When millions of south Sudanese begin registering to vote today for the January 9 referendum that is expected to confirm their independence from the north, Daw Ring is determined to be one of them.

        He almost did not make it.

        Walking at night along a road in Abyei state, near the expected demarcation line between north and south, Mr Ring was arrested by soldiers from the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army.

        ''They said to me 'you are from the north, you are a soldier from the north','' Mr Ring told the Herald. ''When I told them I was a civilian they didn't believe me.''

        After an hour of questioning Mr Ring, the SPLA soldiers decided to take matters into their own hands. ''They were standing over me, and then they shot me here,'' Mr Ring said, pointing to his thigh. ''Then they just ran away. I was in a lot of pain.''

        Left by the side of the road to bleed to death, Mr Ring says it was about 10 hours before he was discovered by United Nations peacekeepers.

        ''They picked me up and took me to hospital,'' he said.

        Speaking from his bed in a Medecins Sans Frontieres field hospital in Agok, an isolated trading hub in Abyei state, Mr Ring said that despite the attack, his support for the SPLA was undiminished.

        ''I am not from the north, I am a Dinka,'' Mr Ring said. ''Yes, I am still an SPLA supporter and I will be voting yes … for the independence of south Sudan.''

        Although registration is expected to be peaceful across most of southern Sudan, there are fears of violence in Abyei if the national government in Khartoum prevents voters from registering.

        A constant flashpoint in negotiations between north and south because of its rich oil reserves, the final status of Abyei has been hotly contested since the signing of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 22-year civil war which claimed 2.5 million lives.

        In an interview with the Herald, the acting governor of Abyei, Kon Manyiet Matiok, warned that if the region's Dinka people were prevented from registering, the issue would be settled by force.

        ''We will be registering to vote like everyone else in southern Sudan. If we cannot, then it is likely that we will see a renewed outbreak of violence,'' he said.

        ''We believe that the national government in Khartoum is doing everything that it can to frustrate the voter registration process, but we will not be prevented from voting.''

        He said he was preparing for the repatriation to Abyei of about 50,000 south Sudanese from the north over the next few months.

        In church services across Abyei yesterday, ministers were devoting their sermons to the registration process.

        Kate Geraghty is in Sudan courtesy of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

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