Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sudan Referendum: A ray of hope for democracy in Africa but...

Refugee children in Chad

Finally people of South Sudan is going to polling booth to decide their fate - whether to become a separate nation or remain as a single one. Voting started from 9th of January and will continue till 15th of January. In order to pass the succession referendum, 60% of the registered voters have to vote plus majority of the ballots. Recent estimations says that voting percentage already crossed the required 60% and most probably South Sudan will vote to secede.

But the major question is, what will happen if they voted to secede? According to the recent Time report "independence will hardly solve all of the South's problems. Kiir must build a functional state out of his war-ravaged land — and without infrastructure, institutions or even much know-how. South Sudan is also crisscrossed by a web of competing ethnicity and clans whose hostility toward one another manifests itself in tribal clashes and deadly cattle raids. Thousands of South Sudanese have died over the past two years in bloody internal conflicts."

Tribal war over cattle and grazing lands not new to Sudan or Africa. Satellite photos shows that majority parts of Northern Sudan is desert like land except the fertile Nile region, but the southern Sudan is covered with greenery.Because of the decades long conflicts between north - South Sudan and internal tribal wars; gun culture is deep rooted in these places.

According to Time "Thousands of South Sudanese have died over the past two years in bloody internal conflicts. Kiir's Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, too, is split by factional infighting. After April's elections, one former general who lost his bid to run a powerful governorship launched his own miniature rebellion against the state. He has since been joined by two other disgruntled dissidents, each skirmishing with South Sudan's army, which has yet to successfully squelch the uprisings. The fear is that, in a place where war has become a way of life and guns seem as plentiful as people, still more violence could follow".

Refugee women in Chad
The major income for the south will of course be the black gold - petroleum. But will the oil bring safety, wealth and stability to the region? If we take rest of Africa as an example then the answer is hardly positive. There is no doubt that the South's oil will give energy to many machines across the world, but will it give food to one of the poor people in the world?

Will the militias, where loyalty is towards individuals, try to gain power through the barrel of gun? Considering the history of Africa, inter tribal rivalry, reports of deadly cattle raids the chances are high for continuation of gun culture.

Whatever be the outcome, the referendum shows a success of democracy. We can hope that south will not forget the democratic values and success of a democratic referendum will force other African nations to follow the democracy. After the referendum, if South Sudan prefer to secede it is important for UN and other nations to broke a deal with both nations for a peaceful coexistence and of course a stable boundary line. Let the boundary line between the south and north be a peaceful one, not like the 'Radcliffe Line' or 'McMohan Line'.


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