President Obama speaks out: Southern Sudan referendum is imperative

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 17 October 2010 18:05
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akol_5(Vermont USA) - I might be writing my most optimistic piece ever in my entire tenure in the world of punditry and I will explain why this is so. First, it helps to see that there are no recent news on the child abductions in Bor and no more killings in Wernyol or Duk in Jonglei State, Southern Sudan by Sudan Government backed militias. There is a glimpse of hope that calm may be taking hold in Jonglei State, Southern Sudan and that is very reassuring!

And most importantly, the US Government with its entire might is finally backing the referendum in Southern Sudan in what one expert puts as “the most forceful and bolder the US has ever been in pushing for peace in Southern Sudan.” So these developments for lack of a better term warrant my most optimistic opinion piece of this year.

So let’s get to the US and the Southern Sudan referendum which is the very purpose of this opinion piece.

I guess for Southern Sudanese here in the US and around the world who are watching the US support for Southern Sudan independence coalescing and hardening around on time holding of Southern Sudan referendum, it looks like a perfect storm because it is unimaginable. About a week or so ago, one could not have imagined that the US with all its might in the face of this planet would be 100 percent behind the referendum in Southern Sudan but it now is for the sake of maimed, orphaned, and widowed average Southern Sudanese. One has to pray that this support holds until Southern Sudanese see the Promised Land [the Land of Cush] in the morning of January 10, 2011.

Today, the administration is speaking in one voice: let’s support peaceful and credible referendum in Southern Sudan. The President of United States Barack Obama, the Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, the US Ambassador to UN Dr. Susan Rice, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (who is traveling to Sudan in a few days) all came out publicly that Southern Sudan must be afforded its right to determine its own destiny.

I reiterate: for an entire US power to come out publicly and root for Southern Sudanese cause is remarkable. It is very dramatic and far exceeded our expectations to see how this recent call for Southern Sudan independence took hold in the US Government. The entire administration is totally on board, and there is a tremendous support in the US Congress.

Today, Sudan Tribune quoted President Obama as saying "[t]his is a dangerous area. The last time there was a war between north and south, 2 million people were killed. And so right now what we’re trying to do is organize a referendum where the south in a peaceful, legal fashion could decide to break off and form their own nation separate from what is currently all of Sudan. We’ve only got about 90 days to get this done.”

Wow! Unbelievable! The US President couldn’t be any blunter and bolder in expressing clearly what the situation is, and what needs to be done in order to avert the bloodiest war because the Southerners are not going to accept anything less than their rights to determine their own destiny. Well said Mr. President. I am proud of my vote and donations to your campaign because this was all we expected of you. I am sure all Southern Sudanese here in the US and from all the corners of the world are very appreciative of your courageous and bold stand in ensuring that Northern Sudan does not renege on its obligation under CPA to support the referendum in Southern Sudan.

But what has also added a sense of urgency to the dire situation in Southern Sudan to the US mainstream was the appearance of the most influential activists: George Clooney and John Prendergast, on Larry King Live (Larry King’s Show on CNN) this past Thursday, October 14, 2010, calling for US support for on time and credible referendum in Southern Sudan.

Both activists took time to educate an average American on why it is important for the US Government, and the international community to support the referendum in Southern Sudan arguing that failure to do so would result in the bloodbaths from the most catastrophic war than the prior one that ended in 2005. And for an entire hour, an average American was seeing the footage of streets of Juba, and the plight of Southern Sudanese yearning for a day when they will have their own independent state. So the average American is also being educated and involved in the push for referendum as that historic moment in the lives of Southern Sudanese approaches.

We (Sudanese Americans) have to not only pray but also keep the pressure on our elected congressional delegations in our own states to support this effort in helping our people decide their own destiny; their next chapter at post United Sudan.

And that brings me to my last question. What does this mean? It simply means the idea of the United Sudan is over, period! Southern Sudan is walking away with its oilfields and arable land from the rest of Sudan, and anyone in the North who is still thinking about Southern Sudanese remaining as second class citizens after January 9, 2011, is daydreaming. Get over it and move on because Southern Sudanese are gone, period!

Of course, the task of building a credible government and a functioning land-locked state will soon begin, and that will require all of us to do our parts to ensure that there isn’t another Somalia in the name of Southern Sudan. But let’s focus on how all this push for referendum unfolds in the days ahead.

All in all, it helps to see that the US Government and the advocacy community in the US have struck the right tone again, and it looks certain than it has ever been that Southern Sudanese have reached the point of forming their own independent state. The world has to be ready for a new nation on January 9, 2011.

Akol Aguek Ngong is Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA. He is also a regular contributor to the NewSudanVision.Com