January 9, 2011 will be the day on which the Peoples of the Nuba Mountains and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) will have the opportunity to realize a decades long goal. That is the day when a United Nations sanctioned plebiscite will be conducted to decide whether the South will separate from Sudan and form a new state.
The Southern Sudan territory is primarily rural with many strong cultures.
Seeking control over newly (1978) discovered oil in the southern Sudan and imposition of Sharia Islamic law by the government of President Numeiri civil war broke out in 1983. The self-governing south (recognized under the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972) mustered the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement let by John Garang (now deceased) to defend against attacks from the mainly Arabic north. That two-year war and yet another war in 2000 with periodic incidents of violence resulted in more than 2.5 million deaths in the south at the hands of the Government of Sudan described by US Secretary of State Colin Powell as “a genocide.” The Government of Sudan has also viciously attacked the peoples of Darfur resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and 2 million displaced refugees now largely located in Chad.
Juba is the capitol of Southern Sudan
With an area approximately the size of Europe and governed by an Executive branch, unicameral Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly and an independent judiciary Southern Sudan has the rudimentary tools for governance. The territory includes substantial deposits of oil, metals (copper, chromium ore, zinc, etc) , timber (i.e., teak) and significant agricultural production of millet, wheat, cassava, sweet pottoes, bananas, mangos and cotton. If it becomes independent, it can surely feed the people and survive economically. Southern Sudan’s population includes nearly 13 million people with more than two hundred nations and culturally distinct groups (i.e., Dinka, Nuer, Kakwa, Shilluk, Zande, Lulubo, Didinga).
I first met with representatives of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement in Geneva, Switzerland in 1994. I was working on the development of support and signators for the International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Nations (See: Chief George Manuel Memorial Library – ICRIN.txt at line 52). Mr. A-Bagi Kabeir added his initial to the Covenant on “behalf of the Nuba People of Sudan” on 28 July 1994 which, if fully adopted by the government of Southern Sudan would commit the new state to recognize the more than 200 indigneous nations inside its territory as having the right “to be protected against ethnocide and cultural genocide.” If the plebiscite approves independence for Southern Sudan the government will need to apply to its many nations the same principles it demanded the Government of Sudan respect: fundamental human rights.
The almost certain vote in favor of the South’s separation comes at a very high price. Mission Chief for South Sudan to Kenya John Duku thinks of January 9, 2011 as the culmination of two generations of terrifying war with the north. The date of the vote by Southern Sudan citizens “is not written with words . . . . It is written with the blood of 2.5 million Southern Sudanese who perished during the war.”
If the Southern Sudan plebiscite opens the door for independence, both governments (Sudan and Southern Sudan) must restrain their military and their people’s from more violence. If separation is peaceful, the door will be open for more peaceful partitions of African states where imposed boundaries by European colonial powers and fissures between religious and cultural communities contribute to state instability. Nigeria and Somalia are reasonable candidates for partitioning into separate states. The Igbo’s territory, Biafra, and Somaliland and Puntland are clear subjects for partition in Nigeria and Somalia.
These are topics for another day. For now, it is enough to observe that Southern Sudan has a long road ahead whether it is independent or remains inside the Sudan. The day for decision approaches.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here