Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sudan's Referendum: Alternate Endings (or Beginnings?)

Sudan is set to have a major referendum in early January to decide whether it should remain a single state or if the the southern Sudanese region should break away as an independent state. The people of South Sudan have generally been unimpressed with the national government in Khartoum and it is expected that in January the majority will vote for independence.

All eyes are focusing on the country to ensure that the vote is undertaken in a free and fair manner without violence. There is however, a history of violence between the North and the South of Sudan. If the outcome of the referendum is deemed to be inauspicious to any of the militias in the country, tempers could manifest themselves with bullets. The Sudanese situation is made even more tense by the fact that largest source of income for the government comes from the oil fields located mostly in the south. On the day of the referendum, the oil-rich regions of the middle belt will cast their own vote as to which side they would prefer to be on, North or South.

The government in Khartoum, it is presumed, is not real excited about the vote. Without a long history of fair elections in Sudan and with such high stakes, we could see the vote manipulated. My biggest fear (besides renewed armed conflict) is that Khartoum will allow the vote to go ahead and even realize the creation of a Southern Sudanese state, but that the oil rich regions will somehow vote to be with the North. You will still see a South Sudan that is excited to have self-determination, but without a major chunk of the resources that could finance their growth. This may lead to more poverty and anger than already exists in high quantities today. Hopefully however, there will sufficient pressure from the international community to see the true will of the people come to life this January 2011. Let's cross our fingers for a peaceful vote.

As we wait anxiously for the referendum to occur, we can at least be entertained by a video urging Sudanese people to vote.

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