Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 1
Challenges and Opportunities as Southern Sudan becomes Africa's 54th nation.
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First published: March 27, 2011
A referendum on independence for Southern Sudan was held on 9–15 January 2011. Preliminary results released by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission on 30 January 2011 indicate that 98% of voters selected the "separation" option, with 1% selecting "unity". The final results were announced on 7 February with 98.83% of the electorate opting for secession. The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, accepted the results and has issued a Republican Decree confirming the outcome of the referendum.
Southern Sudan is expected to become an independent country on 9 July 2011. On 23 January 2011, members of a steering committee on post-independence governing told reporters that upon independence the land would be named the Republic of South Sudan "out of familiarity and convenience." Other names that had been considered were Azania, Nile Republic, Kush Republic (referring to the ancient and biblical kingdom) and even Juwama, after Juba, Wau and Malakal, three major cities.
The January 2011 referendum that saw the overwhelming support for the cessation of South Sudan from the main Sudan has come to pass. Many of the people of Southern Sudan see the January referendum as an achievement of a longstanding dream for self rule from the Arab Muslim north. But many now are starting to question whether and how this will come to pass.
The Head of the Sudanese Referendum Commission, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil says a total of 3,792,518 voters (representing (98.83%) voted for separation while 44,888 (representing 1.17%) voted for unity.
This tally included votes from South Sudan, North Sudan and other countries with considerable number of Sudanese refugees, including Uganda, Kenya, Britain, Australia, Egypt, Ethiopia, USA and Canada.
Omar el Bashir, the President of Sudan, and his Deputy Salva Kiir who is also the President of South Sudan welcomed the results although they were on opposing sides in the referendum.
"We accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people," Bashir said on state TV after the final results were announced. Kiir while thanking people for voting to separate from the north said the South Sudan government will ensure maximum cooperation with the North.
Present day Sudan
Who are the winners and Losers in the South Sudan Referendum
Quite re-assuring words but who then is the winner in this referendum? When the referendum was held, there were two sides of Separation and Unity. The two sides, the Bashir government campaigned for Unity; while the Salva Kiir led Southern Sudan government campaigned for Separation.
The results and the aftermath so far indicate that both Bashir and Kiir (and their sides in the referendum) are winners. Despite widely publicized worries about likely conflict if the South votes for separation, Bashir lived to his promise that his government would not interfere with the referendum exercise although they would have preferred to keep together with the South. Of course the north has lost the huge oil fields in the South and big numbers as the Southerners were paying taxes, but Bashir’s government has gained international respect for their commitment to the peace agreement signed with the Sudan People’s Liberations Movement (SPLM) in 2005 with whom they fought for over 20 years.
With all the name calling and grievances advanced by southerners against the Arab led north, the calm acceptance of Bashir for the referendum to continue and to accept the outcome has shown he is less than the demon many accuse him to be.
In fact, the United States has already promised to remove both Northern and Southern Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, so that it can recognize them as potential partner states. President Barrack Obama has congratulated both Kiir and Bashir and the people of Southern Sudan on the referendum and promised to work with both to ensure more stability and development in both countries.
President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit
Hot blood between the north and south still an issue
Despite the commendable reactions and situation of the outcome, all is not rosy as the suspicion between the two sides remains glaring, and the words used by many campaigners on either side were not always civil. While Southerners liked to call northerners terrorists, oppressors, fundamentalists, and resource grabbers among others, the northerners liked to refer to Southerners as backward, barbaric and unable to do anything on their own.
It had been expected that such sentiments would have died down during the transition period. During the comprehensive peace agreements, the two sides agreed to hold a referendum, separate religion from government in the South and for the north to withdraw their troops from the Southern part of the country. And Bashir has to a large extent kept to his side of the agreement. That is why for many southern, Southern Sudan has since 2005 been a country on its own just awaiting the referendum to stand that fact.
If the Southerners do not forget the repressive rule imposed on them by the Arab north, and the northerners do not appreciate the need for the black Christian South to be self governing, peaceful and mutual coexistence of the two ‘Sudans’ will not materialize. We have to hope for the best and most Southern Sudan people believe the time is now for them to build their country and live as citizens.
“With the new country to come, South Sudan, things will improve for the southerners particularly; health will be improved, education will improve, the transport system will be fine. And governance is not a big question for the devoted leaders who did not fight for themselves alone... but also for their people. Through co-operation with the government of the South Sudan, nations, including the Northern country to be, will benefit greatly. What is important at this point is "peace". Then all the other good things will follow. We need our leaders to unite themselves and the citizens,” says Maku Justine, a Southern Sudanese political analyst.
The people of Southern Sudan celebrate.
Next: Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 2
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First published: March 27, 2011
Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.