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

The second point is to decide what to vote for during the referendum. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on the 9/1/2005 provided for two options on which Southern Sudanese will vote.Quoting from the final document of Agreement, the two options are:
1. “That the unity of the Sudan, based on the free will of its people democratic governance, accountability, equality, respect, and justice for all citizens of the Sudan is and shall be the priority of the Parties and that it is possible to redress the grievances of the people of South Sudan and to meet their aspirations within such a framework”
2. “That the people of South Sudan have the right to self-determination, inter alia, through a referendum to determine their future status”.

To clarify the referendum option, the Agreement goes on to state;” At the end of the six (6) year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the GOS and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession”.

Therefore, the Agreement gives the Southern Sudanese not only the right to an internationally supervised referendum but also an option to either choose to remain in a united Sudan or to quit
the Sudan and establish an independent state in Southern Sudan. To a Southern Sudanese, there are several reasons why quitting the Sudan for an independent South Sudan is the best option. First the
Sudan has been in default unity since its independence in 1955. For these 54 years the Sudan has remained united but peace never existed except for the relative 10 year period after the 1972 peace
agreement. During this period Southern Sudan was involved in two tragic wars aimed at determining the destiny of people of Southern Sudan. In the first war that lasted for 17 years, thousands of Southern Sudanese were killed and many were exiled as refugees in many countries. During the last 21 year war, 3 million lives were lost while other thousands were either internally displaced or sent to exile in many countries near and afar. Indeed it took Southern Sudan to wage two violent wars that led to sacrifice of nearly 4 million lives to gain the right to self determination. This was a monumental loss that the Southern Sudanese should not afford to entertain any more and to avoid such great loss of gallant young men and women; some of whom did not get the chance of even decent burial and remembrance, it would be the greatest political blunder and life time error in our history that the Southern Sudanese will vote for unity of Sudan. The reason is because the unity of Sudan, that they will have committed themselves to, will not be viable or sustainable. The armed struggle of the people of Southern Sudan has already demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that if Southern Sudanese want permanent peace and that they want to forge ahead in peace, so that the long yearned for development and progress in socioeconomic development can begin to be realized in Southern Sudan, then succession is the only option for the people of Southern Sudan. Thus the forthcoming referendum is the only way to guarantee Southern Sudanese right to independence democratically without future bloodshed.

The second issue to consider in the referendum is the current state of development in Southern Sudan. Indeed when war is being waged, development may not take place but what remains at stake is whether the successive regimes in Khartoum from the time of independence in 1955 to date had any slightest thought of developing Southern Sudan. If one compares the two parts of the Sudan one can easily notice that despite the wars in Sudan, the northern part of the country is way ahead of the Southern Sudan because all the regimes concentrated the national resources in Sudan for building the northern Sudan in disregard for Southern Sudan. Taking the recent economic boom in the Sudan since the discovery of the oil; much of which is certainly in the Southern Sudan, the government in Khartoum spurred a lot of development in northern Sudan, making Khartoum one of the most wonderful cities in Africa yet the towns of Malakal, Wau and Juba that remained under the government of Sudan during the war never witnessed a construction even of a single pit latrine leave alone the tall buildings towering the skies of Khartoum. Four years have now elapsed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which mandated the two parties to the agreement to make unity attractive. Since then, the government in Khartoum has not only dragged its feet in the implementation of the agreement but in effect has done nothing in terms of initiating developmental activities that could have been seen as making unity attractive. Therefore, what really remains there for Southern Sudanese to trust the government in the northern Sudan that if Southern Sudanese remained in the ugly Sudan, they will now change their ways to develop southern Sudan?

The third thing to consider is the attitude of our northern brothers towards the people of Southern Sudan. If one is to have an actual judgment as to whether the people of northern and Southern Sudan are really brothers, the best time would have been during war because during war, brothers tend to really rally and lend strong support to one another. However, during the decades of the two wars in Southern Sudan, it became apparent that there is no love lost between the northerners and Southerners. The mistreatment meted out on Southern Sudanese who were displaced to Khartoum cannot be compared to dealing with refugees in Sudan. In fact the Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in Sudan had a better treatment than the Southern Sudanese. Southern Sudanese internally displaced were thrown to the outskirts of Khartoum where one can hardly find sanitary, health, educational and social services. They had to depend entirely on humanitarian organizations, which were also being constantly interfered with by the government functionaries in Khartoum. In addition to that, the government developed a policy of ever displacing them on pretext of opening up areas for development. They became the clearing tractors for new areas and when these areas became stable the government comes to displace them. Southern Sudanese languished in abyss of disillusionment, dejection and abject poverty while the government was milking the cow (the Southern Sudanese oil in Bentiu and Abyei) for the development of northern Sudan and for buying weapons to kill and maim those southern Sudanese who were fighting for the rights of the people.

The third aspect to consider is the existence of segregative laws promulgated on pretext of implementing Sharia laws in Sudan. The sharia Laws enacted in Sudan since President Nimeiri unilaterally declared Sudan as an Islamic State in September 1983,automatically placed the Southern Sudanese into a second class citizens and made them to be considered as khafirs in their our country. This was clearly manifested during the war when the Khartoum government waged the war in the Southern Sudan in the name of fighting infidels. It was also clear during this period that thousands of Southern Sudanese women were subjected to inhumane and degrading punishment of flogging because they were caught brewing their own traditional drinks in Khartoum. Shamelessly Southern Sudanese in Khartoum were often committed to legal judgment using the Sharia laws; laws which they do not subscribe to as they were not Muslims. On the other hand, by implementing the sharia laws, the Southern Sudanese were discriminated politically by excluding them from attaining certain political positions in Sudan because they were Khafirs and not mullahs. Of course Muslims cannot be ruled by khafirs or infidels. Likewise, Sharia Laws discriminated Southern Sudanese against social unions such as marriages and socioeconomic establishments because the economic system in Islamic state is absolutely different from the one in secular state. Therefore, why should Southern Sudanese now think of returning into the second class citizenry after tasting the real freedom ushered in by the Comprehensive peace Agreement in 2005?

In conclusion, time has come for southern Sudanese to determine their destiny and that of their children. The choice is between saying no to war through peaceful means, saying no to marginalization and exploitation, saying no to slavery and servitude, saying no to arrogance and discrimination based on religion, and saying no to second class citizenry and being regarded as khafirs and infidels. In order to avoid this gross blunder of life time, Southern Sudanese this time round must desist from being bought, intimidated or manipulated by northern Sudanese. There are abounding facts that during elections Southern Sudanese have always succumbed to tokens or pressures from northern Sudanese. This has often led them to forget the struggle of the people and voted with their stomachs instead of the peoples’ interest.

Dr. Sindani Ireneaus Sebit is based in Nairobi, kenya and a contributor to The New Sudan Vision, exploring the topic of Southern Sudan referundum and independence. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.