THE ROAD TO REFERENDUM: The forthcoming elections as prelude to referendum

(Nairobi, Kenya)- According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Sudan will carry out nationwide elections in 2009 to elect leaders that will guide Southern Sudan towards the referendum of 2011 and organize the referendum itself according to international standards. The referendum is an important event in the history of Sudan because for the first time it will enable the marginalized people in Southern Sudan to decide voluntarily whether to remain in united Sudan or separate to establish their own independent country. To Sudan it is a watershed milestone because it may result in having two countries that have to be good neighbours or a united Sudan where the political system has to fundamentally be changed to create a new political dispensation in which all Sudanese are seen and accepted as equals before the law and freely practice their cultural, religious beliefs and customs without any fear or restriction. This Sudan must be a country governed by the rule of law and must be a secular democratic country in which people can have leaders of the people, chosen by the people and for the people. Otherwise it will be an unacceptable Sudan again. The Sudanese people have not only endured enough but have actually suffered beyond any known suffering in the world and therefore they should not risk to have a united Sudan for the sake of a magnanimous country while it is a rotten entity that cannot hold the diversity of its people in tranquility and progress.

As far as Southern Sudan is concerned, the referendum marks the only event in history where the people of Southern Sudan have been asked honestly and frankly without any fear to determine their own destiny and destiny of their own children. Sudan has been locked in protracted wars because the people were not given this opportunity to decide their future and so leaders have always tried to coerce Sudanese into unworkable unity that has proved devastating not only to the nation but also to the people. At last this chance is knocking on the doors in Southern Sudan and it means the Southern Sudanese will determine their own future and the future of their children that day and I must hasten to say any wrong decision taken that day should not be blamed on anybody except the Southern Sudanese themselves because the international community has given the people the chance to decide for themselves and must decide rightly. After this referendum, no one should expect that for any wrong decision taken the international community will again come to help them to find another solution to the Sudan problem.

Having said this, one is tempted to ask; what should Southern Sudanese know in order to decide rightly in the forthcoming referendum? First and foremost, in the next general elections, Southern Sudanese should elect politicians based on their quality, calibre and political stand on the issues of Southern Sudan but not on either blood relation or ability to bribe the electors using the very money that should have been used for development in Southern Sudan. The people should elect politicians who have high moral integrity, honesty and proven track record in relentlessly pursuing the cause of the people of Southern Sudanese. They must elect fearless and determined politicians even in the face of great adversity. This is crucial because Southern Sudan needs guarantees for transparent and truly democratic elections. Southern Sudanese should elect politicians who can guarantee level playing fields during the campaign for the referendum because both unionists and separatists in Southern Sudan should be given the opportunity to express and woo voters without intimidation or harassment. They should elect politicians who cannot be bought using the oil or non oil money in Sudan. We have always seen politicians drifting away from the path of the people because of their personal gains. In order to guarantee the future of Southern Sudan, Southern Sudanese should desist from electing politicians who have tribal traits, inherent tendency to nepotism, corruption and usurpation of either public or private property. They should elect politicians who can accept the rule of law and respect the rights of others as equal human beings. Indeed these are tenets and qualities that are essential to guarantee transparent and credible democratic referendum in Southern Sudan.