After historic vote, new challenges on horizon for Sudan

Southern Sudan has voted to secede from the northern part of the country, an official tally of votes for the historic Jan. 9-15 vote is expected to reveal today.

Final results for the vote are due this afternoon. Christian S.N. Lewis was in the country during the vote as part of a reporting trip to Africa. She filed this report for NCR two weeks ago, when the results of the election were still unofficial.

African order cultivates place of refuge for locals

“Jesus came in.”
“Jesus came in.”
“And washed away my sins.”
“And washed away my sins.”
“I’m sitting, standing.”
“I’m jumping, clapping.”
“Happy all the time.”

The classroom of 4-year-olds at the Fatima nursery school of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary sings along with their teacher, Jane Wangui. The roughly 18 children pantomime Wangui’s movements, getting exercise while also learning to speak English. Wangui is one of several lay teachers hired by the Evangelizing Sisters to run the school. The school recently celebrated its 25th year anniversary. About 75 percent of its students received subsidized tuition, says Sr. Jane Wanjiru, the school’s director.

Just a few dozen meters further along the dirt path that leads to the school, Sr. Divina Musimire, 50, is presiding over the birth of a little boy at the Fatima maternity hospital, a roughly 12-bed facility also sponsored by the Evangelizing Sisters. Next door to that, roughly 24 orphans ranging in age from infants to 3-year-olds are taking their daily nap.

Attack highlights all too common African violence

ONGATA RONGAI, KENYA -- In the cool early morning hours of Jan. 14, I was awakened by piercing screams. Again and again, the women screamed.

I did not know it then, but gunmen had broken into the complex of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary, an African order of Catholic sisters where I was spending the night.

When the men came to her door and demanded money, Sr. Levina Kalikwela grabbed a small, gold-veneered framed picture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.

“They entered and I held it,” the sister told me the next day, standing in her destroyed bedroom. “I said, ‘God, we’re finished,’ And I just held it lake this.” She grasped the picture in both hands and held it over her head.

The men hit the picture with their knife, breaking it, Kalikwela told me.

“They were asking me,” said Kalikwela, her voice cracking. “And I was telling them I have no money. I have no money.”

A voice for southern Sudan, a gestating new nation

Sudan held an historic referendum Jan. 9-15 to determine whether the southern part of the country should become independent from the north. Christina S.N. Lewis was in the country covering the event for NCR as part of a weeks long reporting trip to Africa. Below is her report from the first day of the referendum, which appears in the Jan. 21 issue of NCR.

JUBA, SUDAN -- It is Sunday, Jan. 9: The first day of a historic referendum that will likely split Africa’s largest country into two. U.S. Sen. John Kerry addresses a crowd of hundreds, perhaps a thousand, inside St. Teresa’s Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in Juba, the capital city of this gestating new nation.

A phalanx of photographers and television cameramen stand in the aisle to the left, following the senator’s words. Sitting in a red leather armchair at the very front row is Southern Sudan’s president, the tall, dark-skinned Salva Kiir. To his right, a host of dignitaries, including the U.S. special envoy. Farther back, actor George Clooney, who is lending his star power to beleaguered Sudan, a country that is, for now, largely at peace.