MALAKAL, Southern Sudan -- As January's referendum on independence for Southern Sudan approaches, tensions are running high in communities along what many expect will become a new international border with northern Sudan.
Packed buses arrive in Malakal daily with southerners coming home from the North. Church workers report the exodus is fueled by the fear of being attacked should the South vote to separate.
Similarly afraid in any possible post-referendum violence, Arab traders in the town's market are closing their shops and heading North, causing the price of basic commodities to rise as the flow of commercial goods from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, grinds to a halt.
Armies from the two sides, camped out here in close proximity, eye each other with mistrust. On the local base of a joint military force -- comprising soldiers from both the northern Sudan Armed Forces and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army -- rumors run rampant of post-referendum alliances and betrayals.