Yesterday began the much anticipated referendum in Southern Sudan; the time when the Southern Sudanese people decide whether to form their own country or remain united with the North. Pretty much everyone – from my former colleagues (Southern Sudanese and expats alike) to BBC journalists – are saying that a vote for separation is the most likely outcome. The mood in Juba is like a big party with people wearing t-shirts that read “Happy Birthday Southern Sudan,” no one working, and George Clooney and Kofi Annan getting in on the action.
I have to say, it is killing me that I am not there right now! Of course who wouldn’t to be hob-nobbing with celebs (I’ve counted 6 friends who have changed their Facebook profiles to pics with celebs so far), but I long to see history being made and witness the result of so many years of suffering and sacrifice and hard work on behalf of so many people. I have even resorted to forcing my Dad and brother to watch the C-SPAN coverage of a panel discussion of Post-Referrendum Sudan sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I don’t think I’ve ever watched C-SPAN before in my life.
Voting will run until January 15th and we won’t have the final results until mid-February. Can you imagine being given the right to self-determination after more than 50 years of civil war? Astounding.
Here are some resources in case you are interested in further reading:
Contrasting views from Khartoum vs. Juba (the Juba correspondent, Pete Martell, has been based in Juba for years and definitely knows what he is talking about!)
Excellent maps showing how the country of Sudan is already split into two on important indicators such as health, access to clean water, ethnic groups, and food security
A somewhat selective timeline for the history of Sudan
*There are 192 countries that belong to the UN. Yes, I know this is not a very good measuring stick. But how many would you count?