Wednesday, January 19, 2011

South Sudan Well on the Way to Independence

At the beginning of polling there had been fears of voter intimidation and violence, but the vote for independence of south Sudan was largely "peaceful and credible", with 95% voter turnout and 96% supporting succession and, so it seems, with Khartoum and Bashir fully supporting the southern decision for independence. Though media attention has turned to the uprising and subsequent establishment of a new government in Tunisia, the Sudan issue is neither resolved nor by any means over; it is has merely reached a checkpoint.

While George Clooney and his minions spent the week in Juba monitoring the voting process in order to point out any possible genocides-in-action (despite the inherent futility in the endeavor - but that is the subject for a genocide post, coming soon!), the time for monitoring will be in July, when the referendum takes effect and the status of southerners in the north (and vice versa) becomes uncertain. Or when (and if) the oil-rich Abyei district votes for succession of independence. Or if Darfur rebels, recently expelled from southern Sudan in an attempt to appease Khartoum, will now view the south as much of an enemy as the north. Or is opposition leaders in the north continue to call for reform and are continually silenced through arrests.

And those are only external possibilities of violence: in the various articles covering the vote last week I read one in which southern Sudanese believe a independent South Sudan will better protect them from the Lord's Resistance Army. The LRA has used Sudan as a base of operations for years and since at least 2005 has perpetrated attacks on Sudanase living in the south. Khartoum stands accused of supporting the LRA, especially during the north-south civil war in Sudan (to effectively weaken the south.) The general belief is that with Khartoum no longer in control of the south, the new government will be better able to protect its citizens from invasions and raids.

My worry - and I am sure I not the only one, Western, African, Sudanese, what-have-you - is that a new South Sudan will not be able to immediately assuage the concerns of southern Sudanese. Al-Bashir himself, in a non-pedantic, honest assessment, pointed out that the initial stages of countryhood will be rough and uncertain for South Sudan. Being an American in the age of Obama, I know how fickle a population can be, especially when demands are not immediately answered. While I hope the government of the new South Sudan will diligently fulfill the hopes and allay the fears of its populace, I also hope that populace will be understanding during the grace period any new country needs. It remains to be seen, but as long as an independent South Sudan remains true to the southern Sudanese our hopes can remain positive.

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