Political Climate in the Sudan: Upcoming Referendum and the Imminent Birth of a New Nation – Southern Sudan

Published February 25, 2011

By Michael Ayuen Kuany

Michael Ayuen Kuany(Borglobe) —As the political referendum is to take place in Sudan in January of 2011, the world’s attention is riveted on the imminent birth of a new nation, Southern Sudan. In three months, the people of southern Sudan will be able to exercise their democratic rights to either vote for unity or separation. The general mood of the people of southern Sudan is to have their own nation, a nation that will be tolerant and will show no discrimination of individuals’ political, religious, economic or social status. Serious campaigns for an independent south have already begun all over southern Sudan and abroad. This article is an opinion analysis of General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of Southern Sudan’s recent speech in Iowa.
There are numerous challenges facing Southern Sudan today. The upcoming referenda as well as the implementation of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) are two serious challenges that need to be addressed at this time.

Due to the seriousness of the situation in Sudan, the United Nations recently invited world leaders to attend a special meeting in New York to discuss the situation in Sudan. The first vice -president of the Republic of Sudan and the president of Southern Sudan General Salva Kiir Mayardit, arrived in New York a week early to address the Black Caucus in Washington DC and to meet with the Sudanese Diasporas in the United States.

President Kiir is scheduled to address the UN concerning the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the upcoming referendum, and the war in Darfur. During his address to a positive and excited crowd at Iowa State University, Kiir spoke on every single issue pertaining to Sudan at this time. I was one of the fortunate people to hear the president reviewing and analyzing issues concerning Sudan, the nation as a whole and southern Sudan in particular.

The president began his speech by reviewing the formation of the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in which he was fourth in rank before he moved up to be the president of southern Sudan. The SPLM was formed in 1983 under the leadership of the late Dr. John Garang. Due to his untimely death in a helicopter crash in July 2005; in the years preceding 2005 the leadership of the SPLM remained under the man whom Garang called Joshua of Sudan Salva Kiir. The president alluded in his speech to the Diasporas as “ambassadors” and he implored them to continue to raise awareness in their respective states as to the critical situations in Sudan.

Borders and resources

Since Sudan gained its independence from the British in 1956, the borders between north and south Sudan have been clear. But after oil was discovered in the south, the north redrew the borders southward in order for them to gain control of the oil fields. The president of southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, in this speech, stated that 80% of the oil locations are in the southern territories. The Khartoum government has disputed the borders set between north and south at the time of independence in 1956. Under the CPA, demarcation of the borders should have been established prior to the 2010 elections and the upcoming referendum. The north insisted during elections that people were to vote without there being definite demarcation of borders. This same government has now changed its course and is insisting that the referendum cannot be conducted without the demarcation of borders. The southern government and the SPLM have warned the north that any procrastination of the referendum will not be tolerated. The SPLM denounced any postponement of the referendum and insisted that the referendum be carried out without the formal demarcation of boundaries.

Post referendum

The two partners in the Government of National Unity (GOU) are the National Congress Party (NCP) of President Bashir and the southern ruling party (SPLM). They are presently engaged in a war game over post referendum issues. The NCP is buying time to delay the referendum process. The SPLM, therefore, has no option other than to declare independence since the north has no political will to debate and address these issues amicably. Debates on the currency, citizenship (nationality) and the sharing of 35 billion dollars in national debt between north and south are not happening. The NCP however, through political maneuvering, has stated that it will pay half of the $35 billion of debt and that the south can pay the other half. This money was borrowed to purchase artillery to kill southern Sudanese during the civil war. It is understandable that the south refuses such a bargain. They refuse to pay any part of a national debt that involves the death of their own people.

The north is losing all its venues to win the confidence of the southern Sudanese, so they have resorted to destabilizing the south by arming local militias to fight against the government of southern Sudan and the local populations. There is widespread tribal fighting going on across southern Sudan and the north is supplying many of these tribes with weaponry. More deaths have occurred in the south during this tribal fighting than the number of casualties that occurred during the 23 year civil war.

Cattle rustling is one of the common tools being used by the northern government to create disunity among the communities in the south. All the southern communities had been disarmed when the civil war ended. But in two months, if the people of southern Sudan vote for an independent Southern Sudan, these communities will be found re-armed. During the elections, one of the candidates for the position of governor in Jonglei state (in southern Sudan) rejected the elections results and declared war against the southern armies. This individual was a well known fighter in SPLM and yet the north was able to influence him with rewards. He proceeded to do what he could to interrupt the referendum.

Unity and democracy

No matter what is decided upon in the upcoming referendum, northern and southern Sudan will always remain neighbors who need to develop a diplomatic relationship. Politicians, members of civil society and church leaders are emphasizing that larger than the issue of southern Sudan being an independent nation is the issue of unity of the people between the two Sudans. The concept of unity had been given a chance by the CPA. Unfortunately, the north engaged in political game, playing to promote disunity between north and south. The south lost trust they had in the past with the north. “Unity had been made ugly” said president Kiir. SPLM Secretary General Amum was asked at his Iowa speech as from whom the southern Sudanese are separating from. General Amum replied,“Southern Sudanese are separating from a failed state”. Amum stated during this address that Sudan needs fundamental change in order for any kind of unity to be achieved.

Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder and Executive Director of Rebuild South Sudan. He can be reached at: michael@rebuildsouthsudan.org

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