The results of the Southern Sudan independence referendum were released in Khartoum today and the results indicated a landslide of 99% in favor of dividing Africa’s largest country.
The result is not without controversy, however, as human rights groups expressed alarm at reports that the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir be given a temporary reprieve from war crimes charges and that the US State Department indicated it is initiating the process of withdrawing Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.
While the announcement was greeted with jubilation in Southern Sudan, many fear that without the continued pressure on al-Bashir, the relative peace of the referendum will be short lived indeed. In fact, in Khartoum there have been reports in the past week of the government brutally putting an end to student protests and the Sudanese military continuing violent campaigns in Darfur, deepening the concern.
Many questions remain before both countries, not the least of which is the citizenship of the displaced Southerners in the North, oil revenues and much more. The formal declaration of independence will be made on July 9, 2011.
But what does that mean for map makers and those that use maps? One big question is what will be the name of the new country. Officials in the South say that the issue is unresolved, but the name could well be South Sudan.
To complicate the Sudan situation, there is another territory in play: the oil-rich Abyei region, which lies in the center-south of the country, bordering the new South Sudan, has been the site of most of the violence during the referendum and was scheduled to hold its own referendum at the same time as the South Sudan referendum, but disagreements over eligibility and violence sidetracked the vote.
So what do you do if you are about to go to press with a product that has maps that show the current boundaries of Sudan or Africa? We suggest that until there is a definitive referendum on the status of Abyei , the region should be included in Sudan (north). In most cases, the scale of maps that show Sudan will be hard to distinguish the Abyei region, so should pose no confusion to users. Also, if your products are scheduled to go to press before the July 9 independence declaration, the new country should be labeled as South Sudan. However, keep your eye on InCarto and other news sources in case a new name is announced in advance. It’s always better to have the first product with the new name than it is to be the last with the old one.
US State Department: Africa: Congratulating Sudan on the Results of the Southern Sudan Referendum