With independence vote, South Sudan finally sees end to decades of struggle
A vote for secession is all but certain in the independence referendum that begins Sunday. South Sudan is anticipating independence and a chance to build its own country.
(Page 2 of 2)
Gressly told reporters in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Jan. 6 that the UN expected the vote to start on time on Jan. 9, and that the those involved in carrying out the referendum have succeeded in their work despite “an extremely tight timetable in a political sensitive environment.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Despite rushed preparations for the three weeks of voter registration in November and December, observers like the Carter Center said that process was credible and boded well for the success of the vote itself.
Optimism on eve of vote
On the eve of the referendum, the mood is optimistic in many camps, including the Obama administration and the UN, and even Sudan President Omar al-Bashir seems willing to accept southern independence. The Sudanese president, wanted for war crimes related to the Darfur conflict, told southern leaders during his visit earlier this week to Juba that he knew southerners were likely to choose secession and that if the referendum passes, he would lend support to the south as they built their own state.
Referendum polling lasts until Jan. 15. If the international community appears to be fairly united on one foreign policy issue at this moment, it may well be the importance of recognizing the results of the referendum. When President Obama led a high-level meeting on Sudan in September, key players in the international community were unified in their message of support to Sudan’s leaders in the north and south for creating conditions for a peaceful and credible vote – and consequences if any party attempted to stymie it.
While it is possible to foresee how the vote will play out and predict its immediate aftermath, the months to come in Sudan are much more uncertain.
If the south does break away following the referendum, the new nation will declare independence on July 9. Before then, a host of agreements must be reached between Khartoum and Juba, none of them straightforward.
How to divide Sudan’s $40 billion debt, much of it accrued while Khartoum was waging war and purchasing military aircraft to launch air strikes on the south? Where exactly does the 1,300-mile border between north and south lie? How will they share oil revenues after independence? That could be especially difficult, since the resource watchdog group Global Witness maintains that it is impossible to know the exact amount of oil Sudan currently produces, given the lack of transparency in Sudan’s oil sector and the mistrust between both sides.
While elation and joy are likely to mark the coming days in South Sudan while its people participate in their long-awaited and hard-won vote, the following months will require Sudan’s leaders in north and south to stay at the negotiating table until agreements are brokered.
Edmund Yakani, head of the largest domestic referendum-monitoring group in South Sudan, says he’s looking forward to the day when his people will be free, but he knows the road will not be entirely smooth.
“It’s not a soft independence,” says Mr. Yakani. “It’s an independence associated with political and military struggle.”