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Independence Vote First Step For Southern Sudan

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Independence Vote First Step For Southern Sudan

Independence Vote First Step For Southern Sudan

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

F: NPR's Frank Langfitt reports that the voting may be the easy part.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND)

FRANK LANGFITT: The mood in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, is boisterous these days. Marching bands and sound trucks roam the streets, urging people to vote for independence. But after next week's polling, the real work begins. Southern Sudan is nearly the size of Texas but has hardly any paved roads. Corruption is rampant. And illiteracy hovers around 60 percent.

INSKEEP: Juba University, the biggest school in the south. But right now I'm here in one of the dorm areas and it's frankly really trashed. There are lots of broken windows, there's garbage all over the courtyard, the floors are flooded. And I'm next to a bunch of goats here who are eating into a bag of rotted food.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAG CRINKLING)

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)

LANGFITT: Conditions inside the dorm room are no better. Wow.

U: Yeah. it is our room.

LANGFITT: William Simon is 24. He's studying finance in hopes of getting a job at a bank.

M: The number of the students is very high. Most of them are sharing beds. Others are sleeping outside even. Some people have left the university because the condition is very bad. People are scrambling for food.

LANGFITT: The Reverend Milton Lado, the school's acting deputy academic secretary, agrees.

LANGFITT: It's terrible, it is terrible, but as time goes, we hope things will improve.

LANGFITT: Lado says the school can't afford to expand. He's hoping for help from foreign organizations.

LANGFITT: Our expectations are that once the referendum is over, we expect some good Samaritans to come in and assist the university.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROAD TRAFFIC)

LANGFITT: Philip Waiwai handles road maintenance for the government here. He says many rural roads wash out in the rainy season, including the 370-mile route from Juba, the capital, to Malakol, another major city of one million.

M: The end of May to November, you can't use that road.

LANGFITT: So how do people get from Malakol to Juba?

M: Well, you fly. You use charter planes to come, to come to Juba.

LANGFITT: Waiwai has high hopes for Southern Sudan's transport system. In the next couple of months, his department will start an asphalt highway to the Ugandan border. But he says the government has to generate more money to build more roads, and keep it out of the hands of crooked officials.

M: We need to have a system where the taxes collected are transparently used for development, not to go to some individual pockets. So we suspect that the corruption is still very high.

LANGFITT: Corruption is very high. I speak from experience. On two recent trips to Juba, police shook down my taxi driver for bribes. A female cop was pretty blunt earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

U: Stop the car, stop the car. Pay money.

LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Juba, Southern Sudan.

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