The Birth of a New Nation: Southern Sudan


Juba, capital city of the semi-autonomous Southern Sudan

On January 9th, 2011, inhabitants of the semi-autonomous Southern Sudan region will vote on a referendum to decide their future.

According to experts on the region, the vote will lead to a new nation, an independent South Sudan. The birth of new nations is often accompanied by brutal violence, including but not limited to genocide, like in the case of the creation of the modern day nations of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

There are clear red flags that point to potential violence come the January 9th vote. The Rift Valley institute points to three significant factors that are of concern:

The key areas of dispute in both referenda are voter eligibility, voter registration procedures and border demarcation.

In other words, the first two areas of dispute could lead to an illegitimate vote and thus could spark wide unrest. For example, Khartoum(the northern government), put through a measure that requires 60 % of the votes in order to reach a quorate(i.e. to put through vote of independence through). As the Guardian pointed out, the South’s extremely underdeveloped/war-ravaged infrastructure could make it difficult for many in the South get out the vote.

The vote will also be integrally linked to the decision on where South Sudan begins. The geographical area of dispute along the border includes oil-producing land, a recipe for overt conflict.

Aside from the staggering amount of issues of difficulty between South Sudan and the North, other regions, including Darfur, add conflicting forces to the vote.

According to the Foreign Policy publication, Minni Minawi, a Darfur rebel, moved to the capital of the South, Juba, prompting fears within the North’s government of Southern cooperation with Darfur rebels.

These fears can neither be confirmed or denied, according to the International Crisis Group. What is clear is that Khartoum has attacked targets in South Darfur because of fears of the South’s cooperation with Darfur rebels.

Khartoum has also bombed targets in the border area between Southern Sudan and the North, accusing the semi-autonomous region of supporting Darfuri rebels. The South denies these allegations.

I admit that I do not fully understand the unfolding events leading to the referendum of January 9th. Nonetheless,  given the very violent history between the South and the North; the unsettled Darfur conflict;  and the many resources that are subject to being lost or gained, it is clear that mass violence, even on a genocidal scale, cannot be ruled out.

From our comfy computer screens, our capability to prevent violence in Sudan is marginal. Yet if we follow the story scrupulously and demand our leaders(that includes citizens of South Africa, China, and Russia) to do all within their power to pressure the North and South Sudanese governments to put civilian lives ahead of politics and power, perhaps the worst can be avoided. Remember, never again includes more than just the utterance of the words never again.

This, of course, includes spreading  news articles related to the January 9th referendum.



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