Renk is a town in the southern part of the country, and it couldn’t be any sadder. Not a single street is paved, and there are no hotels or cinemas. Instead, there is a lot of dust, sand and stray dogs. On the edge of town live refugees who have made it all the way here from Ethiopia.
In recent weeks, Renk has managed to become even a bit more miserable. Hundreds of inhabitants have abandoned the town, and thousands of them are all packed up and ready to go. At a nearby military base, tanks stand ready for action. It is possible that Renk will soon find its way into international headlines.
These are tense times in Sudan, Africa’s largest country. On January 9, the Southern Sudanese will decide in a referendum whether or not to secede from the northern part of the country. Should secession come to pass — and it currently looks as though it will — the world will witness the first founding of a new African state since Eritrea split off from Ethiopia in 1993. And Renk would become a place of high strategic value owing to its location near what will presumably become the new border.