- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

JUBA, Sudan An impromptu celebration broke out under the shade of a mahogany tree in the heart of Juba on Wednesday.

Men, their bare chests smeared with dust and some draped from the waist down in faux leopard skin, took turns gyrating in the center of a circle of onlookers. They leapt into the air to the encouragement of ululating women and the beating of drums.

They have much to celebrate.

On Saturday, South Sudan will become the world’s newest nation, with Juba — a dusty town where paved roads are a luxury and most buildings are prefabricated structures — as its capital.

Despite the celebratory mood that pervades the city, southern officials are aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

The conflict raging across most of the south’s 10 states is foremost among their concerns. Southern officials and Western organizations accuse the northern government of Sudanese President Omar Bashir of arming rebels. Others cite tribal rivalry and disenchantment with the government.

Internal Affairs Minister Maj. Gen. Gier Chuang Aluong told journalists that the “enemies” of the state were working to destabilize the south.

“They want to portray South Sudan as a failed state even before takeoff,” he said.

“Tribal conflicts continue to tear us apart on a daily basis,” he added.

Matt Brown, a spokesman for the Enough Project, which advocates against genocide, said there is ample evidence to show that the rebels are backed by Lt. Gen. Bashir's government in Khartoum, the capital of the nation that will retain the name Sudan.

Bashir has supported the militias before - the Janjaweed in Darfur and the Misseriya in Abyei. This has his stamp all over it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a satellite monitoring group said Khartoum has amassed a large convoy of troops, vehicles and artillery in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan, a state near the southern border that has been the scene of recent violence. The U.S.-based Satellite Sentinel Project is monitoring security-related developments along the internal border between the north and the south.

A Western official, who spoke on background citing the sensitive nature of the issue, said northerners as well as southerners are responsible for waging retribution attacks against each other in Southern Kordofan.

The government in Khartoum has denied United Nations humanitarian agencies access to parts of Southern Kordofan that have been affected by the violence.

Valerie Amos, U.N. Emergency Relief coordinator, expressed concern for the humanitarian situation in the state.

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