Sudan: Happy holidays and a peaceful referendum

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

According to the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the central government in Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Southern Movement, Southern Sudan will hold a referendum on whether or not to remain part of Sudan on 9 January 2011. Abyei, an area with a “special administrative status” will hold a separate referendum on whether to become part of South Sudan.

Here's a roundup of latest blog posts about Southern Sudan Independence Referendum 2011. Blogging from Southern Sudan, Maggie Fick wishes Southern Sudanese a peaceful referendum:

I’ve haven’t heard many carols this year, but something spirited is certainly in the air in the Southern Sudanese capital this holiday season. It’s the referendum. The south’s independence vote is looming larger here every day, in many ways.

There’s the towering and hard-to-miss digital countdown clock in one of Juba’s most hectic roundabouts. There’s the massive quantity of pro-separation paraphernalia blanketing the city (I received an email a yesterday from a pro-separation activist saying that “100,000 Referendum T-Shirts, 100,000 Caps, 100,000 Paper Flags and 200,000 Posters,” which he called “referendum awareness material,” had been delivered from Nairobi by a civil society group called Countdown to South Sudan Referendum 2011; I will post photos of the t-shirts etc. soon). And more than signs and shirts, there is a pervasive feeling of excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty among Juba residents, from the East African motorcycle taxi drivers I know to everyday southern citizens working in markets, schools, and clinics, to aid workers to diplomats to journalists…the referendum is the unavoidable topic of conversation, but given its huge import internationally and even larger impact here in Southern Sudan, why would anyone want to discuss anything else?

In “From Cairo to Canberra to Kansas: Southern Sudanese say “Referendum Oyay”” she discusses the decision to allow Southern Sudanese to vote in eight countries around the world:

Not far from my hometown, in Seattle, Washington, there’s a voter registration center open at 608 Maynard Ave. S., from 9 am to 6pm Monday through Saturday and from noon until 5pm on Sundays. Nope, my fellow Washingtonians are not prepping to participate in some ballot initiative or another. The registration center is for Southern Sudanese people who live in Washington state and who want to participate in determining the future of their homeland.

The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) is organizing “Out of Country Voting” in eight countries, so that Southern Sudan’s undeniably far-flung (think Australia to California to the UK) diaspora population. Kudos to the people who organized this effort.

It’s a startling contrast to think of voter registration happening in rainy holiday-season Seattle and at the same time under a tree in villages without electricity in various corners of Southern Sudan. But there you have it: the south’s self-determination vote is historic, and its impact will be far-reaching not only within the borders of Sudan and in its immediate vicinity in the region, but all over the world, where Southern Sudanese are getting the chance to exercise a hard-won right.

Laura Heaton describes the job of the “identifier” during the referendum:

As with most elections seen around the world, prospective voters in South Sudan’s referendum had to produce some sort of identification to verify that they were legally eligible to register for January’s vote. In a region long plagued by war, where people have often been on the move, and state capacity and reach minimal, one might anticipate some problems verifying South Sudan’s voters.

But remarkably, verifying the identity of southern Sudanese for the January 9 referendum may have been one of the easier parts of the process, thanks to women like Catherine Paul…

At each registration booth, two elders from the community were selected to serve as identifiers. If someone came to register who didn’t have an ID, the identifier’s job was to verify that he is who he says he is and that he meets the eligibility criteria. Asked whether there had been an instance when she didn’t know a person, Catherine shook her head. “Never.”

Alex Thurston writes, “Sudan: More trouble in Abyei”:

Three days ago, I wrote about fears of renewed civil war in Sudan. I focused on two problem areas: ambivalent rhetoric from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) about whether it would accept the results of an imminent referendum on Southern Sudanese independence, and continued tension in Abyei, a border region whose own referendum was recently postponed. The NCP’s rhetoric appears to have softened – an assistant to President Omar al Bashir, Nafie Ali Nafie, gave a statement yesterday on the (big) referendum that seemed to be “the first acknowledgement from the northern elite that the south would likely secede after a looming referendum” – but the situation in Abyei remains chaotic. Trouble in Abyei means trouble for Sudan.

The Repatriates to Abyei: a Denied Past and an Uncertain Future:

Thousands of people have packed up their luggage and returned to Abyei, the small spot between the North and South which has become the Achilles heel of the Naivasha Agreement. Some have come hoping for a better future, but what awaits them is extremely disappointing. Abyei, though rich in oil, is poor in everything else.

Ashoul Paul is a 55 year old widow whom I met when she was helping her sons take their baggage off the huge truck that transported them to Abyei. Although she is old, she has very high morale, and actively works like a twenty year old girl. Her children and grandchildren gathered around me asking to take photographs next to the luggage, while Ashoul started to sing a traditional Dinka song talking about homesickness, according to the interpreters who were with me.

Ashoul tells how she came from Wadi Halfa, thanks to the voluntary repatriation program. She used to work in river navigation. Her husband died, leaving her with eight boys and girls. She worked hard to raise them by herself thanks to her ongoing work. “I am now in my homeland which I left when I was a little girl. I will cultivate our land, and my older sons will help me raise their younger brothers and sisters. I am not afraid of the future”, she adds.

Where will South Kurdufan fall if Southern Sudan separates?: South Kordofan: Political Stillness Prevails

Finally, the approach of the referendum and its expected consequences of splitting the country into two halves put everyone on high alert and under severe pressure, let alone the demarcation State of South Kordofan, which lies exactly on the fire line between North and South.

The two states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan joined the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) during the civil war. The CPA has assigned the mechanism of “Popular Consultation” to the two states as a compromise commensurate with their status as demarcation states.

Considering the details of the “Popular Consultation” according to the text of the CPA, it is clear how much it is open to various interpretations, starting with the right to self-determination according to SPLM's vision and ending with making it a mere plaint mechanism. However, it is indisputable that its procedures are long and complex, and pass through several agencies and levels before reaching the final form, even though they are governed by accurately specified times that do not exceed three months in total.

Finally, follow Sudan Vote Monitor website from 3 January 2011 for real-time referendum related reports:

The purpose of Sudan Vote Monitor is to support the independent monitoring and reporting of the referendum process by Civil Society Organizations, the media and the general public. Sudan Vote Monitor will receive reports via text message, email and through its website. All reports will be mapped by our volunteers and posted to our website in real time. We will also produce a daily summary blog post of the reports we have received.

Reporting will start on Monday January 3, 2011

At the moment, we are busy trying to secure a shortcode. A shortcode is a 4-letter phone number that people can text messages to. Once we have our shortcode, we will be publicizing it as widely as possible, so that anyone from the public can send us a report describing their experience of the referendum.

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

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