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Sudan: Southern Sudan Referendum: Africa (Dis)United?

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 January to 15 January 2011 on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. This is our latest roundup of referendum related posts.

Boboya Wudu reports that The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) has assured referendum results will be successfully announced despite insecurity concerns and logistical challenges:

3.9 million Voters were registered to vote in the referendum. Out of 3.7 million registered in Southern Sudan, 3.1 million voters have cast their ballots. Out of 116,000 registered in Northern Sudan, 62,000 (53%) have voted, while in the Disapora 55,000 (91%) voted out of 60,000 who registered

Zeinab Saleh reports immense enthusiasm for independence amid a shocking humanitarian situation:

At Baibok camp, tens of citizens gathered around Ramadan Michael, the camp officer, in a small office to register their names to receive the food rations. Ramadan said to us that they distribute food rations on citizens after counting them and after determining the size of each family. SUDANVOTES noticed that the camp has no toilets and that citizens urinate and defecate in the open. However, Renk Governor Dinaq Akwai promised that outdoor toilets will soon be built with the help of some humanitarian organisations.

In spite of the challenges people are enthusiastic about the referendum and its outcome. Everyone who SUDANVOTES spoke to at the camp said they are in favour of separation in order to be independent from the North and establish their own state.

Renee Lambert witnessed the counting process:

Young Sudanese polling officials sat inside a small two room school, silently unfolding ballots while national and international observers looked on. It was just after 7 pm, the polls had closed 2 hours earlier. Outside the school the sun was setting, so the polling officials were counting by the light of small lanterns. Shadows of the young officials unfolding ballots bounced off the walls of the small room and goose bumps covered my arms as I realized the significance of what I was witnessing. My eyes had already welled with tears more times in the past week than could be counted on both hands, but this did not stop them from tearing up again. And I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t even a fraction of what the Sudanese polling officials and observers must be feeling.

The police official in charge of ensuring security at the polling station brought us a small bench so we could watch the counting process; then he proceeded to give us a play-by-play account of the process as we watched it in action. The first box of ballots was dumped in the center of the table; then 8 polling officials meticulously unfolded each ballot, placing them into tidy bundles. Once all the ballots were unfolded and organized the counting could begin.

One polling station posted preliminary results on a tree:

One station had already posted the preliminary results from their center on a tree outside the polling area. Sudanese citizens and journalists crowded around the tree, eagerly taking notes, while police guarded the ballot boxes as they were loaded into a lorry to be driven to a central place for final counting and confirmation. I imagined this same process taking place in all the other polling stations throughout southern Sudan and felt immense pride and amazement at what had been accomplished.

Dr. James Okuk offers his “advance billion congratulation” to Southern Sudanese:

I would like to exploit this jubilant opportunity to say in advance Billion Congratulations to the people of Southern Sudan, both inside and in the Diaspora. Now my nerves are getting relaxed and cool that we are done with our dignity far away from the injustice of Northern Sudan elites in Khartoum and elsewhere. I have no doubt that the counted results of the polling will be over 80% in favor of secession of South Sudan when officially announced at the end of this month, January 2011.

The people of Southern Sudan should now focus on internal challenges:

Now after this best news we shall turn our eyes focusedly into our own internal challenges inside South Sudan itself and its current or coming government leadership. I pray that we start the declared independence in July 2011 on a right footing in order to move forward progressively and catch up with other developing countries in a most positive mood; even if it is slow let it be sure.

AFRICA (Dis)UNITED: Africa and Sudan by Gez posted at Afroline.org

Leon Nyerere, a Sudanese based in Canada, believes that there is no rational justification for the separation of Southern Sudan:

No rational justification for the separation of South Sudan. It is widely expected that people of South Sudan will overwhelmingly cast their votes for separation. But most of the reasons that the people of South Sudan have given as to why they are voting for separation, from my vintage point, are valid.

However, these reasons are not rational enough to justify separation of the South from the north especially, when one considers political and social changes sweeping across the Sudan.

One of the theories that have been advanced to explicate why most African countries have remained economically stagnant is that African governments make irrational decisions. The decades of civil wars in Sudan, which have unfortunately resulted to the current situation taking place in Sudan as we speak, is due to irrational socio-economic policies made by the minority Sudanese Arab elites in the centre. Likewise, the decision, which is being taken by the South Sudanese and which is likely to lead to a creation of another nation-state in African, follows the same irrational path of reasoning.

The quest for separation, Leon argues, was informed by emotions than rational thinking:

South Sudanese decision to opt for separation is influenced more by emotions than by rational thinking. These emotions are based on years of suppression of Black Sudanese. For over half a century, Sudanese who claim Arab pedigree have ruled over Black Africans including the people of South Sudan. Sudanese who don’t claim Arab identity are treated as second-class citizens. Non-Arab Sudanese and Southerners in particular, continued to be called slaves. Although the so-called Arab Sudanese are also called slaves when they travel to the Middle East.

Second, South Sudanese have been denied access to the national wealth. Today, South Sudan has earned the title of being the most “underdeveloped” part of the world because of such inequality. Third, South Sudanese have been disallowed to practice their believes of choice in a non-judgmental free environment.

Fourth, during the civil wars, Southerners were massacred and up to date, they have not been given the justice they deserve. These are obviously gross injustices committed against Southerners and they ought to be angry. But is separation of the South from the North the best option for these past injustices? Will separation bring long lasting peace? I don’t think so.
When you ask South Sudanese why they want another nation, most likely you will hear these rehearsed answers that they have heard from their leaders without necessarily understanding the complexities of the topics they are discussing. Marginalization makes the top list of these answers followed by Islamization and Arabization.

Finally, listen to a podcast by SouthSudanInfo.net’s blogger, David Widgington, who spoke with a Montréal broadcaster about unresolved issues between Northern and Southern Sudan: 1) the border demarcation between north and south, including Abyie; 2) Sharing of oil revenue and infrastructure; 3) the management of the Nile floodwaters; 4) citizenship, right to return and security; 5) repayment of the Sudan national debt.

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

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