Malakal preparing for Christmas, despite high prices
20 December 2011 - As South Sudan's first Christmas since independence rapidly approaches, Malakal's market has become increasingly crowded with men, women and children buying gifts.
Families in the Upper Nile State capital have also been busily preparing their houses to reflect the season and coming celebration.
Some of the market-goers are returnees, who have been away from South Sudan for several years and are excited to celebrate Christmas with relatives in their new country.
"I have been away for 20 years, but today I am very happy to be again in South Sudan to celebrate Christmas, to gather with my relatives whom I have missed," said James Deng Adwok.
But although food and non-food items are readily available in the market, prices have skyrocketed, putting a dent in the enthusiasm of some shoppers.
"I cannot afford to buy clothes for my five children, as the cost to buy clothes for one child ranges from 200 to 250 SSP ($57 to $71)," said Angelina Otor, a cleaner at the state Ministry of Education.
Traders attributed rising prices to fees businessmen must pay at the border with Sudan to the north.
"The continued road blockages between the north and south as well as heavy taxes imposed along the border are the cause of the high prices," said trader Mohammed Adam.
Some market sources said the road between north and south was due to open on 20 December, which may help prices to stabilize.
South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan on 9 July this year.