International

Southern Sudan, Where Little Has Changed 'In A Century Or More'

The people of Southern Sudan are about to vote on whether to become the world’s newest country, but you have to wonder sometimes how they are going to do it, because there is so little infrastructure.

You can fly across much of Southern Sudan, a territory nearly the size of Texas, and see nothing but scrub and mud and thatched huts, called tukels. No paved roads, no electricity. The landscape probably hasn’t changed in a century or more.

Before I flew up to Abyei, a county just on the other side of the north-south Sudan border, I was warned to bring food, because there are no hotels, mostly just huts with dirt floors. Armed with Pringles and peanut butter and jelly, I took two charter flights, then begged a 90-minute ride from an aid group down the worst road I've ever ridden. The ruts were two-feet deep. I felt like a human bobble-head.

Luckily, I ended up in the group's compound and a concrete room with a thatched roof –- which was palatial compared to how everyone else was living. The picture is me waiting for my flight at the Agok airport, which doesn't really exist. It's just a dirt runway.

NPR's Frank Langfitt at the "airport" in Agok, Southern Sudan.

NPR's Frank Langfitt at the "airport" in Agok, Southern Sudan. NPR hide caption

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(NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt is based in East Africa. His latest reporting from Southern Sudan, where the vote comes up next month, is due on today's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.)

On whether to become the world’s newest country.

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