From the Washington Post, writer Maggie Fick describes the shortages that could come from the merchants leaving.
Northern Arabs and southern Christians and animists have coexisted mostly in harmony in towns like Malakal on Sudan's north-south faultline. But uncertainty surrounding the Jan. 9 vote has caused some northern-based suppliers to delay shipping goods to traders here, 90 percent of whom are from the north, said Ahmed Jadullah Mohammed, the head of a trade union of merchants.
Food staples like sorghum, wheat and beans come from northern Sudan by barge, the cheapest and fastest way to get food into a place where few roads exist. In anticipation of food shortages, the World Food Program has pre-positioned 75,000 metric tons of food in 100 hubs throughout the south.
Lise Grande, who heads the United Nations' humanitarian operations in the south, said the flow of essential foodstuffs is already dropping and noted there is less food in area markets.
A two-decade north-south civil war ended a peace deal in 2005. But clashes between the northern and southern armies in Malakal in November 2006 and February 2009 killed at least six people, a Human Rights Watch report found. There are fears violence will restart.
In hopes of allaying those concerns, the Upper Nile state government has told residents they will be safe, said Mohammed, the merchants' union chief. The governor of Upper Nile even visited Mohammed's sorghum warehouse last week.