The spotlight is once again shining on Sudan and once again not necessarily in a good way. A referendum is scheduled in the country for January 9, 2011 allowing citizens to decide whether the oil-rich South will separate from the North, where the ruling government is based.
And therein lays the issue. Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been accused of atrocities in the past, has said that he would not accept anything less than unity. That attitude, despite an outward commitment to peace, has observers from all over the world on edge, fearing not only fraud and intimidation in the referendum process, but outright civil war if the outcome is a ‘yes’ vote supporting secession.
Sudan was embroiled in a two-decade civil war until a peace was brokered by the UN in 2005. This referendum is a result of that peace deal. Many fear that without intervention by the UN, another conflict will erupt and could result in genocide. Two weeks ago at the UN General Assembly, President Barak Obama warned the factions in both North and South to ensure that the referendum and the likely split of the country proceed peacefully and promised normalization of relations if that happens. However, with the oil wealth of the nation in play there, it will surely be a difficult path to independence for the South.
Movie actor and activist George Clooney made the point on the Today show that either way, the United States is going to pour money into Sudan. The choices are stark – spend it on cleaning up a man-made disaster and the atrocities that will surely result, or be proactive and provide the material and capital support that is needed to ensure a peaceful transition.
Voter registration is scheduled from November 14th through December 4th, but the registration process continues to be a problem. So even with international support, the referendum may need to be delayed beyond January, which could itself spark violence.
Cartographically speaking, if you have products in the pipeline that include maps showing Sudan keep a close watch on this situation. At the moment, it is too early to include South Sudan as an independent entity and it may take some time after the referendum to settle the situation. Our editors will establish a policy for the display of the boundary in the interim period after the referendum if it passes. Consult with us before making changes to your products.
- Sudan on Brink of New Civil War (theroot.com)
- U.N. Delegation Presses Sudan to Allow a Referendum and Avert a New Civil War (nytimes.com)
- Sudan ex-rebels ‘snub peace deal’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Sudan President Warns Of Greater Conflict With South (nytimes.com)
- “Sudan moves into critical period prior to referendum vote” and related posts (episcopalcafe.com)