South Sudan

The separatist war that birthed South Sudan was particularly brutal. The northern part of the country is the site of the traditional capital, Khartoum; the south mostly undeveloped. The language of the north is Arabic and the religion Islam; the south speaks with many tongues and follows faiths that were once called primitive.

The north controlled industry and had an organized army, the south, petroleum resources. The north controlled perhaps the country’s most precious resource, gum arabic, a material found only in Sudan and which is an essential component of modern industrialized agriculture and industry itself. The southerners fought tenaciously, they did not trust the Arabs, as they called those from the north, those whom they believed were denying them freedom.

The forces of the north captured two officers in a fierce battle for control of the petroleum-producing region, a battle fought to establish facts on the ground. The captured officers, a man and a woman, were taken to intelligence headquarters. There the man said, “I will tell you everything. Just don’t let the woman find out. She will report back and then they will kill my family. So don’t let her know that I am talking to you. If she learns, I won’t say anything. She is strong, you will never break her.” The intelligence officers were persuaded. They transferred the woman to a prison in Khartoum, but she never arrived. “Shot while trying to escape,” is what they wrote in the report. There was no body.

The remaining officer had promised them everything they wanted: orders of battle, the number of troops on the ground, the identities of their spies in the Ministry of Defense in Khartoum. The intelligence officers were set to begin his debriefing and they told him not to worry about the woman, that she would never bother anyone again. The remaining officer smiled.

“Actually I was concerned about her. I know that at some point you would break her, you would indeed. I couldn’t trust her. She would tell you everything. But you Arabs are all too trusting. You took care of that problem for me. You cannot break me, you will not break me.”

He was right. Even as they cut off his ears; his fingers. A single hand, the Islamic punishment for the thievery of the South Sudanese, for trying to steal the patrimony of the country. They crippled him. None of the pain they inflicted opened his mouth. Finally they ran out of ideas and just shot him.

Eventually a peace treaty was signed between Sudan and the new country that chose “South Sudan” as its official name.