Modern Sudan…or should I say, Sudans?

Abyei straddles the disputed border between north and south Sudan, and is claimed to be home by two rival ethnic groups. (© NYT Jeffrey Gettleman)

This is a truly historic time in Sudan. A referendum has been made for secession for the south. The southern part of Sudan is working to break away and form a new nation, free from the inhumane acts of civil war and violence that have plagued the entire country (specifically the Darfur region) for the last few decades. The vote on this referendum was actually made yesterday, January 21st, and as expected, the Southern Sudanese Voted Overwhelmingly for Secession.

Voters in nearly every state in the south chose independence by 99 percent; in Eastern Equatoria, only 229 people voted for unity with the north out of 455,466 votes, according to the preliminary results.

Now the wait begins. Southern Sudan will not achieve formal independence until July 9, when the United States-backed peace treaty that put the referendum in motion is set to expire. By then southern Sudan hopes to pick a national anthem and a name; leading contenders are Nile Republic and South Sudan.

However, there are hints that this referendum period will not pass so easily…

…There are still a number of delicate and potentially combustible issues that need to be resolved before Sudan can peacefully break in two, namely how the two sides would share the south’s sizeable reserves of crude oil and what to do about the Abyei region, which straddles the north-south border and is claimed by both.

Fighting this month in Abyei claimed dozens of lives, and Western diplomats worry that the region could threaten what has been an otherwise remarkably peaceful and orderly referendum period.

In other words, while the political process of division is under way, there remain some obstacles to true division between the two nations. I think even if the referendum period goes somewhat smoothly and divisions of these sensitive regions are made with at least moderate agreement between the people, I think outbursts of violence will continue and possibly rekindle animosity that will now manifest itself in a war between nations. My belief is that a slower process of making the divide might be a good idea. There is a necessity in at this time to work out concretely, using the evidence available, who truly owns what; who ones the disputed land and resources. In cases where things are still unsure, a temporary division should be made, with reversibility left in tact in acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the time. Personally, I think divides of any kind cannot change the sentiments of certain people for those on the other side. We see a “sister” situation in Israel/Palestine with one side condemning the other as they fight for sacred space. Forming borders contributes to the natural illusion that people on the other side are extremely different from yourself — when in fact, they are not.

Also, for those with little background on the conflict in Sudan as well as this referendum, a series of questions (so far broken into 3 “Takes”) posed by the public to NYT Columnist Nicholas Kristof along with President Carter (who is in South Sudan at the moment observing the referendum) provide helpful insight into what is really going on:

Take 1 – Answering Your Sudan Questions (NYT Kristof Blog)

Take 2 – Answering Your Sudan Questions (NYT Kristof Blog)

Take 3 – Answering Your Sudan Question (NYT Kristof Blog)

Also, if you were curious on what should be done about the Abyei region (the region of current conflict which may prevent a smooth referendum period), read this article:

Roots of Bitterness in a Region Threaten Sudan’s Future

Also, for a video about how progress on the anthem is going, click here.

Finally, there was an article last year about the homecoming of a South Sudanese “Lost boy” (now a man) making his homecoming when the idea of a referendum were still very premature, and it provides an interesting angle:

For “Lost Boy”, Vote in Sudan Is Homecoming

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~ by Andru on January 22, 2011.

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