In May 2008, long-simmering tensions between the Sudan People's Liberation Army of the south and government forces from the north boiled over into violent clashes in the town of Abyei, causing an estimated 25,000 people to flee their homes.
They are gradually moving back to Abyei, located along the north-south border of Sudan. And efforts are underway to rebuild the town, including repairing roads and replacing the mud and thatched roof homes, known as tukuls. But still there are large swaths of barren land.
PBS NewsHour's Larisa Epatko spoke with Abuk Ngor Kiir, 23, about her life in Abyei, her participation in the youth union there, and about a referendum in early 2011 in which residents of southern Sudan will vote whether to become an independent country or stay unified with the north.
Can you tell me your name and a bit about yourself?
My name is Abuk, and I studied in Khartoum in primary school. I couldn't make it to the high school examination to enable me to go to a university after secondary school. So I studied in an English school in Khartoum. And now I'm working in the nutrition section of a hospital. I'm a member in the Abyei Youth Union.
Why did you join the Abyei Youth Union?
I joined the Abyei Youth Union to serve my country. We are intervening in the process of anything happening in Abyei, solving conflicts, everything. And if something happens, we go as a youth union to meet with the administrator [of Abyei] and other officials.