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143. Will Southern Sudan Gain Sovereignty?

This issue looks at the secession vote in Sudan.

SINCE YOU ASKED

Several weeks ago, I had lunch with a gentleman from Sudan who was sharing his experiences ministering Africa”s largest nation. I think he was surprised that none of us present at the table were aware of the upcoming vote and its significance not only for Sudan, but for many other war-torn nations around the world. He told us about the¬†¬† national vote that would determine whether the southern region (predominantly Christian) would become an independent nation, separating from the north (predominantly Muslim). The referendum was the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war between the north and the south. Both sides have been¬†¬† devastated in so many ways that they are willing to do whatever it takes to bring peace. The preparations for the vote were to have taken three years, but the desire was so strong that it took only four months.

As I have been following the vote (during the week of Jan. 10), the word seems to be that most of the voters in the south are strongly for secession. While Saturday

(Jan. 15) is the final date for voting, the results may not be known

until the middle of February. You can imagine the negotiating difficulties they will likely face if the results support secession. Add to this the geographical and political challenges that must be addressed and you”ve got an uphill battle ahead. Sudan has oil and gas reserves, but they are in the south. The pipelines from the wells, however, go through the north. They will have to decide how to divide the nation”s $38 billion debt and how to settle

the disputed border region of Abyei.

AS I SEE IT
World reaction to the vote is not surprising. Diplomatic sources have revealed that virtually the entire Arab League has been supporting the Khartoum regime in efforts to prevent secession by southern Sudan. In contrast, Israel has quietly supported efforts by the largely Christian South to establish an independent state. It appears that Israel has forged links with most of the southern leadership and is prepared to expand trade with any state independent of Khartoum, which has been designated as a leading backer of Hamas. Should the South win independence, It will be interesting to see if it inspires leaders in Somaliland to push for recognition by the international community as a sovereign state. In the southern region of Morocco, Western Sahara may also be inspired to forge ahead after failed negotiations regarding its quest for independence.

As of Saturday evening (Jan. 15), voter turnout was high in the South, considerably lighter in the North, and relative peaceful in both regions. I”ll let you know as soon as the results are announced. I

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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Why do the terms “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?


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