Monday, October 25, 2010

For Southern Sudan, Anthem First, Independence Second

Officials in Southern Sudan held a contest on Sunday to select music for their upcoming national anthem; the lyrics and title, “Land of Cush” (Southern Sudan is in the region of the biblical land of Kush) have already been chosen. Of course Southern Sudan doesn't actually exist yet, the region is scheduled to have a referendum on independence from Sudan in early January. It seems pretty clear how the Southern Sudanese expect that vote to go...

Kidding aside, the situation in Southern Sudan could prove to be the first international crisis of 2011. While brutal fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan has gotten the majority of the international community's attention for the past few years, Southern Sudan waged their own brutal insurrection against Sudan's Khartoum-based government. In both Southern Sudan and Darfur, the basic motivation has been the same – opposition to attempts by the Khartoum government to impose Islamic-based law on these largely non-Muslim areas. Fighting in Southern Sudan came to a halt in 2005 when a cease-fire agreement was negotiated between the government of Sudan and the leaders of the Southern Sudan insurgency. On the main issue – independence for Southern Sudan – the two sides punted, pushing off a final decision to be determined by a referendum far off in the future, in 2011. The Southern Sudanese side is waiting a whole nine days into 2011 before holding that vote.

At least before trying to hold the vote that is. Sudan's government is furious over the proposed referendum, even though they had agreed to it as part of the cease-fire deal. The reason is simple, Southern Sudan seems ready to breakaway (as evidenced by the whole national anthem contest), and Southern Sudan holds the bulk of Sudan's oil reserves. The government in Khartoum has been loudly suggesting that they won't recognize the outcome of the January 9 vote, trying to lay the groundwork that the vote – which hasn't occurred yet – was fraudulent, and trying to get the international community not to recognize the outcome. All of which suggests that Sudan is not going to quietly standby while the southern third of their nation, and much of their oil reserves, goes off on its own.
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