Rallying cry gets louder as registration approaches for Southern Sudan referendum

OMAHA--First it was rally at the Memorial park last month. Then today, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, a group Southern Sudanese gathered on the steps of the state building in downtown Omaha to listen to soaring speeches about the January 2011 referendum on independence of the South. card_2011

For all southern Sudanese back home and in the Diaspora, a double countdown has just begun and they are saying time is of the essence---that there is hardly any time left.

It is exactly one week before Out of Country Voter registeration begins on November 15. In the U.S., there will be three voting centers: Omaha, Nebraska, Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington D.C.

And it is exactly 61 days until Southern Sudanese flock to the polls in a historic referendum vote on independence of the south.

The theme that has been running through all of the rallies is one and stubbornly tries to remain so: that this is the only and only one last chance that history has afforded southern Sudanese to decide their political destiny through ballots and that people better not spoil it.

From representatives of women to the youth to the SPLM chapter, the message to the international community continues to get louder: 'hear us.'

A soaring speech by Nybol Akok of the SPLM women's league recalled how women have been hit the hardest by civil war. She called on "prominent women and the international community" to support the cause of freedom for Southern Sudanese women and children.

A representative from the Mayor's office was on hand to welcome those who attended. "What a beautiful thing you are working toward," said Aida, Communications Director for Mayor Suttle. "We are thinking of you and your people back home," she added.

Mr. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of the Government of Southern Sudan Mission to the U.S. and United Nations, was also on hand after stoppping by following his visit to Iowa. Mr. Gatkuoth started with clarifications in relations to the IOM, which is the international body charged with conducting training and registeration.

Many are showing doubts about whether the international agency will do a good enough job given the sensitivity of the exercise for Southen Sudanese.

In a separate context though,questions have also surfaced as to the logic behind the idea of three centers for a huge population such as those in the U.S., including whether it will be possible for everyone to make it to those places considering the distance, work and more importantly,the snow since January will be the height of extreme winter weather.

But Mr.Gatkuoth testified to the credibility of the IOM, citing its independence and prior proven track record of carrying out "registrations in places like East Timor and Montenegro."

Mr. Gatkuoth encouraged everyone to register and vote. On the home front he praised president kiir for his recent pardoning of George Athor and the other warlords, saying Mr. kiir did it to show "we all need to be one before referendum."

Mr. Gatkuoth also said that when that time comes to vote on January 9, 2011, "not to intimidate people"  to vote a certain way, emphasizing the need for everyone to get through this process with integrity.

The gathering was organized by Sudanese Civil Society---a grouping of churches and other non-profit organizations in Omaha.Two additional rallies are scheduled for November 13 and Decemeber 11, respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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