Thursday, January 27, 2011

Referendum in Sudan

The referendum has been the momentous occasion all Southern citizens have been waiting for generations. This just ended plebiscite will define and grant South Sudanese self-determination if the outcome is secession as widely and overwhelmingly expected or believed that 90 percent of Southerners voted for separation. The referendum was part of a key component of peace deal which ended with a landmark peace deal in 2005, after the death of more than 2 million people in the north-south Sudan civil war.

Thus, secession is tantamount to an independent South Sudan as well as a contingence for providing basic services, and enhancing freedom and good governance.

However, forming a nation is not that glorious and glamorous exceptionalism, especially in a region devastated and ravaged by war and poverty, and coveted by mercenary leaders who wish South Sudan not to be a viable state and who also want to influence their tribes as a shield for advancing their political interests.

Southerners believe and know very well that there are going to be challenges, but these constraints will be overcome because they are not new challenges.

First and foremost, most of the problems that face the Southern citizens came through marginalization by the successive governments led by northern leaders. Today such illusive marginalization and centralization have been overcome through secession, so the Southern citizens have unlimited roles to play with their leaders.

However, the most speculative questions every Southerner is asking, is what is next after referendum? For instance, the last fifty years underdevelopment has been blamed on the centralization and marginalization by the Northern elites. But if our Southern elites fail to envision and deliver good governance, who can we point to? These questions remain rhetoric in the feasibility and viability of the forthcoming independent state of Southern Sudan.

The current south Sudan government would continue till the birth of the new state, anticipated to be on 9 July, denying a transitional government in south Sudan would be established after the announcement of the referendum results.

Ongoing Challenges
The Government of Southern Sudan has been faced with so many challenges since 2005. Specifically, the provision of basic services to the public such as education, clean drinking water, physical infrastructures, health services, environmental protection, and employment opportunities to skilled citizens, all these developmental needs have to be the priorities in the next government post-referendum.

Why is development and equitable distribution of resources the most significant priority? All South Sudanese believe 100 percent that the underdevelopment and insufficient provisions of basic services prevalently exist in unprecedented scales because: first, there was no transparent system of governance; second, there has been protracted civil war for 39 years; and third, people lack the political will and freedom to invest in their natural capitals.

These monumental challenges were the root-causes for the protracted civil war in the Sudan since colonialism. Now, how these basic fundamental needs will be addressed remain an enormous challenge to Southerners.

Lack of Clear Vision
The fate of South Sudan's future prosperity remains a major concern for every Southern citizen with impeccable patriotism in all aspects of struggle to its realization. Numerous writers have been reporting mixed opinions regarding the performance of the Southern Government right away from day one of its inception in October 2005 to until today.

Yet little progress surfaced so far on the side of government pertaining development in all categories and some pragmatic idealists pose reasonable rhetorical questions whether the Government has always conducted retrospective self-justification or not. Yes, there is a lot which have been achieved by our government that reflects its strengths as an inexperience government, but still there remain few areas of essential need whereby the government has been expected to have done better than it did within five and half years of Southern Government.

One might have revisited Kenyan history back to when her first cabinet was formed under the President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1964 after the British colonization was brought to an end by Kenyan freedom fighters under Mau Mau Movement. That government so much like our government in South Sudan under the President Salva Kiir Mayaar-dit was faced with trio-major challenges of inexperience in government, poverty and high illiteracy among the top list. However, the Kenyan cabinet confronted their tomorrow which is today's Kenya with faith through humility and positive response by the cabinet ministers when they addressed the above challenges with patriotism and loyalty to civil society they loved most. They turned blind eyes to wealth accumulation and keenly focused on developing their country through transparency and education with the aim of eradicating poverty and illiteracy that prevailed amongst the Kenyan populace at that time.

However, their past spirit of honesty and hard work was then thwarted by the successive government of Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki who latter deep rooted seeds of corruption and nepotism against Kenyan citizens and forgot continuation with advancement of Kenya's prosperity laid by much admired leader Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his first cabinet.

More or less, the Government of South Sudan have done much like Kenyan government of that time as it is similarly faced with unbearable challenges of inexperience in government before, poverty, and high illiteracy, but there are few blind spots that our government chose not to see that remain visible to the full view of every commentator.

Most of Government of South Sudan's cabinet ministers with the army top brasses focus mainly on wealth accumulation and openly chose to turn blind eye on development as the civil society is left ailing from poor health care, lack of social welfare, poor infrastructure, poor and few education facilities and no running drinking water in most major towns if not all just to narrow down the list.

Preliminary Results
The South Sudan referendum's counting process is coming to its end with the primary results indicating that separation of south Sudan is a foregone conclusion. The final result will be announced between 7 and 14 February. Meanwhile, George Makier, spokesman of the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), said primary results of the referendum showed that around 99 percent of southern Sudanese voters have voted for the region's separation from the north.

However, preliminary results from South Sudan's referendum in Western Equatoria state (WES) indicate 98.99 percent of voters have backed the secession of South Sudan, a key measure in South Sudan's bid to produce Africa's 55th state. The Western Equatoria State Referendum High Committee (WESRHC) on 20 January announced the preliminary results of South Sudan's referendum on independence, showing an overwhelming vote for in favour of secession.

Western Equatoria registered 216,567 voters and about 214,000 are reported to have voted. There are reported to have been 10 votes for unity, 211,833 for secession, 1003 invalid votes and 372 unmarked.

Supporters of the secession votes in WES include both the current governor, Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro and former governor, Jemma Nunu Kumba, who stood against each other in the April 2010 elections.

Agreement With Armed Militia Group
The ruling party in the South, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and all the southern opposition political parties agreed on a roadmap in October 2010 to guide the region for future governance after the referendum.

A political agreement was inked on in Juba between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the militias of South Sudan Defence Forces on 22 January, saying the latter was represented by Ashwang Arop.

However, Col Phillip Aguer Panyang, spokesperson of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) denied knowing any armed group called south Sudan defensive with which they have signed an agreement.

In 2006 the SPLA and SSDF signed the Juba declaration incorporating the SSDF into the SPLA, which under the peace deal was the only legal army in the south. As part of the deal Paulino Matip became the deputy commander in chief of the SPLA.

In Khartoum, Sudanese Minister of Justice Mohamed Bushara Dousa said that southern Sudanese at the Sudanese National Assembly (parliament) would drop their memberships following the announcement of separation of south Sudan, adding that participation of the southern Sudanese citizens in other state institutions would continue. He further indicated that the constitution must be amended after the transitional period that scheduled to end on 9 July, with the participation of the Sudanese political forces.

Constitutional Review Committee
The President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, on 21 January issued a presidential decree forming a constitutional review committee, chaired by the minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, John Luk Jok, to review the current constitution of Southern Sudan as the region moves to statehood.

Although the terms of reference for the committee is not yet revealed, the 24-person committee's activity is believed to be part of implementation of the resolutions and recommendations of the Southern Sudan political parties conference, which brought together almost all of parties in the south.
The new dawn that beckons in crisis-torn Sudan following a week-long autonomy vote by the southern Sudanese is a major step forward in the search for a long term solution to the Sudanese question. It marks the climax of a five-year painstaking process since the 2005 Naivasha agreement between the Khartoum central government and the SPLA/SPLM. Former United States President Jimmy Carter observed the referendum, whereas US President Barack Obama is also fully involved because their fortunes (north and south) are linked.

It is expected that the parties involved would be magnanimous in accepting the fate of the two regions as determined by the referendum. In fact, the declaration, four days after voting commenced, that the turnout passed the 60 percent threshold required for a valid result, with more than 2.3 million people voting is welcome; it shows the burning desire and excitement of a people for self-determination.
Nevertheless, the development deserves the continued support of the international community, which may be called upon to assist the new country if the plebiscite pulls through. That should also be a fitting complement to the peace efforts to end about 50 years of conflict and two decades of civil war in the country, a war that claimed more than two million lives, mostly southern Sudanese. Millions shamelessly became refugees in their own country. The consuming conflict clearly reflects a complete failure of governance for decades in Sudan, typical of many other African countries.

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