In Sudan, an Election and a Beginning
Not every generation is given the chance to turn the page on the past and write a new chapter in history. Yet today -- after 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees -- this is the opportunity before the people of southern Sudan.
Over the next week, millions of southern Sudanese will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or to form their own independent nation. This process -- and the actions of Sudanese leaders -- will help determine whether people who have known so much suffering will move toward peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed. It will have consequences not only for Sudan, but also for sub-Saharan Africa and the world.
The historic vote is an exercise in self-determination long in the making, and it is a key part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended the civil war in Sudan. Yet just months ago, with preparations behind schedule, it was uncertain whether this referendum would take place at all. It is for this reason that I gathered with leaders from Sudan and around the world in September to make it clear that the international community was united in its belief that this referendum had to take place and that the will of the people of southern Sudan had to be respected, regardless of the outcome.
In an important step forward, leaders from both northern and southern Sudan -- backed by more than 40 nations and international organizations -- agreed to work together to ensure that the voting would be timely, peaceful, free and credible and would reflect the will of the Sudanese people. The fact that the voting appears to be starting on time is a tribute to those in Sudan who fulfilled their commitments. Most recently, the government of Sudan said that it would be the first to recognize the south if it voted for independence.
Now, the world is watching, united in its determination to make sure that all parties in Sudan live up to their obligations. As the referendum proceeds, voters must be allowed access to polling stations; they must be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation and coercion. All sides should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or provocative actions that could raise tensions or prevent voters from expressing their will.
As the ballots are counted, all sides must resist prejudging the outcome. For the results to be credible, the commission that is overseeing the referendum must be free from pressure and interference. In the days ahead, leaders from north and south will need to work together to prevent violence and ensure that isolated incidents do not spiral into wider instability. Under no circumstance should any side use proxy forces in an effort to gain an advantage while we wait for the final results.
A successful vote will be cause for celebration and an inspiring step forward in Africa's long journey toward democracy and justice. Still, lasting peace in Sudan will demand far more than a credible referendum.
The 2005 peace agreement must be fully implemented -- a goal that will require compromise. Border disputes, and the status of the Abyei region, which straddles north and south, need to be resolved peacefully. The safety and citizenship of all Sudanese, especially minorities -- southerners in the north and northerners in the south -- have to be protected. Arrangements must be made for the transparent distribution of oil revenues, which can contribute to development. The return of refugees needs to be managed with extraordinary care to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe.
If the south chooses independence, the international community, including the United States, will have an interest in ensuring that the two nations that emerge succeed as stable and economically viable neighbors, because their fortunes are linked. Southern Sudan, in particular, will need partners in the long-term task of fulfilling the political and economic aspirations of its people.
Finally, there can be no lasting peace in Sudan without lasting peace in the western Sudan region of Darfur. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Darfuris -- and the plight of refugees like those I met in a camp in neighboring Chad five years ago -- must never be forgotten. Here, too, the world is watching. The government of Sudan must live up to its international obligations. Attacks on civilians must stop. United Nations peacekeepers and aid workers must be free to reach those in need.
As I told Sudanese leaders in September, the United States will not abandon the people of Darfur. We will continue our diplomatic efforts to end the crisis there once and for all. Other nations must use their influence to bring all parties to the table and ensure they negotiate in good faith. And we will continue to insist that lasting peace in Darfur include accountability for crimes that have been committed, including genocide.
Along with our international partners, the United States will continue to play a leadership role in helping all the Sudanese people realize the peace and progress they deserve. Today, I am repeating my offer to Sudan's leaders -- if you fulfill your obligations and choose peace, there is a path to normal relations with the United States, including the lifting of economic sanctions and beginning the process, in accordance with United States law, of removing Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. In contrast, those who flout their international obligations will face more pressure and isolation.
Millions of Sudanese are making their way to the polls to determine their destiny. This is the moment when leaders of courage and vision can guide their people to a better day. Those who make the right choice will be remembered by history -- they will also have a steady partner in the United States.
Mr. Barack Obama, is the President of United States of America
Independent Referendum to be closely monitored and implemented
Sudan as a nation has never known peace since her independent from Britain in 1956. There were always inter or intra tribal conflicts, regional division, ideological fragmentations and religious conflagration. There were two protracted civil wars and Darfur conflict that resulted into genocide. These intractable problems have never gone away and the constancy of these problems has disorganized the largest land mass country in Africa. Sudan is endowed with natural resources notably crude oil but massive poverty, diseases and wars have become the landmark of the troubled land.
At this moment emerges a window of opportunity from the notably Peace Accord made between the Islamic North and mostly Christian South that called for a referendum in January for the self-determination of the South. This opportunity to end the wars, genocide and abhorrent status quo in Sudan cannot be allowed to flatter away. The Bush administration must be acknowledged for their contribution to the advancing of peace making between the warring factions in Sudan that culminated to the Peace Accord, subsequently with the scheduled forthcoming independent referendum in January.
The Obama administration and United Nations must utilize all the leverage they can muster to make sure that the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir do not back down from the timetable and the implementation of the accord. Earlier, President al-Bashir was indicted by International Criminal Court at Hague for war crime in the Darfur genocide. Although President al-Bashir has assented that he will abide by the outcome of the referendum which will surely result to the secession of the Southern Sudan but the watchful eye of the world is still necessary.
Sudan's President al-Bashir (r.) and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit (Southern leader) Pics: Christian Monitor
United Nations must make the necessary arrangement to ensure that the outcome of the referendum will be honored in orderly framework. The presidential candidate Barrack Obama was talking up the issue of Sudan during his campaign for presidency and was showing all the signs of being on top of it once he got elected. The critics of Obama administration including Human Rights organizations and some members of US congress were complaining that his policy on Sudan is murky and that may be unfounded.
President Obama administration is backing the independent referendum which he reiterated America’s support during his appearance at the United Nations conference in September. President Obama said, "The stakes are enormous, we all know the terrible price paid by the Sudanese people the last time north and south were engulfed in war -- some 2 million people killed."
The United Nations General Assembly cannot afford to be playing child’s picnic with the issue of Sudan because the downside will be a horrible ramification that will quadrupled human sufferings that comes with massive loss of lives, property destruction and with unspoken tolls of hardship. United Nations has to put more resources and energy by aiding African Union and listening to the counsel of Nigeria’s Professor Gambari, United Nations Special envoy to the Arab League Summit that he is offering in order for the cessation of the violence to be sustainable. African Union (AU) can be of great help because Sudan is in their turf but AU lacks the necessary fund, resources and logistic to implement the accord singlehanded.
Khartoum government may likely back down from the accord without any credible power breathing down over their back. Bashir government has every reason to withdraw from the peace accord because the oil resource is in the south. Therefore the United States and United Nations can bring firmness on the issue that will not provide the Khartoum incentive to be become reluctant to implement the accord.
This is not the time to appease tyrants and dictators who are not willing to work together with global community to foster tranquility and peace in their corner of the world. As Sudan is aspiring to be a democratic nation and a responsible nation she will follow up with the peace accord and avert further destruction of her land. President Bashir has to display a statesmanship with responsibility that will convince the peace loving people of our globe that his quest for peace and unity is without doubt.
Peace can be made self-evident not by words and promises but action and commitment to peace. The world community must be willing to work with the Sudanese government to bring to an end the wars and disease in the land. At the end of the day if the South ratified the referendum by voting Yes, then their self-determination will be honored and respected. And that will mark a new chapter in the annals of peace making and a new dawn of peace will commence in the troubled land of Sudan.
In 21st century Africa, peace is a precious resource and Africa must be willing to do anything within her power to maintain a peaceful continent. The greatest bearer of brunt of African wars, instability and dilemma are women and children. The children of Africa and Sudan must be protected from wars, diseases and abuses emitted by their selfish leaders and war lords who were bent on implementing ideas and policies that do not promote peace, liberty and unity in the political landscape.