Christian World Service is greatly encouraged by early reports from partners on the referendum in South Sudan that began on January 9. The critical referendum on whether to split from the north will continue until January 15. CWS is asking churches to accompany the Sudanese with prayers and support during and after the referendum.
“I am cautiously optimistic and delighted that voting so far has proceeded in a peaceful and orderly way in what is a very fragile situation,” said John Gould, CWS International Programmes Officer who last visited the south in 2007.
Peter Wadella of the Maridi Service Agency (MSA) reported, “a very tremendous turn up in Maridi County. So far the process is very peaceful and people are voting with a lot of joy and happiness. We hope this will continue till the announcement of the results hoping that the will of the people through the ballots will be democratically honoured.
“Well MSA has played greater role in this referendum in providing civic voter education throughout the County right from the time of registration to this date of polls. The radio FM played a very tremendous role in mobilising people in this referendum. I must assure you that CWS has greatly impacted positively in the lives of people in Maridi County.
“A free and fair referendum is critical not only for the people of southern Sudan, but for all Sudan. The outcome of the referendum will affect the lives of all Sudanese and the future of the region”, said the global humanitarian network ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance general secretary John Nduna as voting began. Christian World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance.
Praising the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau – for their work in facilitating the referendum process, Mr Nduna said they must now do their utmost, during polling and in the run-up to the announcement of the result, to ensure electoral transparency. Mr Nduna said the verdict of the people of southern Sudan must be respected, whether they decide to secede or stay united with the north. “ACT takes no sides and no view on the outcome of the referendum”, he said. “As a humanitarian alliance, we work in north and south Sudan and Darfur with people of all backgrounds, to meet the requirements of those in the greatest need”.
The referendum is a provision of the CPA signed on January 9, 2005. The peace deal was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement ending the second civil war. Over 2 million people were killed in almost 50 years of fighting and many more made homeless. No date has been set for a referendum for the Abyei border region where there are significant oil deposits.
Christian World Service has funded emergency assistance and peacebuilding programmes over many decades in South Sudan. It also hosted two delegations of Sudanese church leaders who played a key part in the peace process through their effective grassroots peace and reconciliation programme as well as international advocacy during many decades. CWS currently supports the Maridi Service Agency which has played a critical role in offering training and sporting opportunities for young people whose only experience was war. The community radio programme has played an important role in voter education in an area where there is little infrastructure.
11 January 2011
Make Peace a documentary produced by the New Sudan Council of Churches is available for loan. Contact email@example.com to borrow a copy. Hopes for Peace, a backgrounder written in 2005 is available: https://www.cws.org.nz/files/Sudan%20Hot%20Topic.pdf
For ACT Alliance resources (including images) on the referendum see: http://www.actalliance.org/stories/sudan-referendum
About ACT Alliance and its work in Sudan
ACT Alliance is a network of 105 church and church-related organisations involved in humanitarian, long-term development and advocacy issues in 140 countries around the world. It works impartially with all people, regardless of background, ethnicity, gender, religion or political affiliation. ACT Alliance is locally rooted, consisting of local member organisations and international partners who work in cooperation with local churches and other non-governmental partner organisations.
ACT Alliance members have been working with people in all parts of Sudan for 50 years. They have contributed to the reconciliation of various armed groups and, through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and its Catholic and Protestant members and partners in Sudan, including Caritas and the Sudan Council of Churches, been actively involved in the process leading up to the signing of the CPA. ACT Alliance is committed to continuing to assist people in need in Darfur, the north and the south of Sudan, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
ACT Alliance supports the right of the people of southern Sudan to have a referendum about whether they secede or stay united with the north, and takes no sides and no view on the outcome of that referendum.
ACT Alliance believes that all parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) must do their utmost to ensure that the referendum is held in a free and fair manner in order for the people of Southern Sudan to exercise the right to determine their future. Although it is the Southern Sudanese who are voting, the outcome of the referendum will affect the lives of all Sudanese and the entire region.
ACT Alliance is concerned with the humanitarian situation in Sudan and the great number of people who have been moving within and from neighbouring countries to Southern Sudan in recent months and weeks. It is especially concerned about children and all internally displaced people who need humanitarian support in the form of shelter, water, food, sanitation and basic services.
ACT Alliance members are locally rooted. We are composed of local member organisations and international partners who work in cooperation with local churches and other non-governmental partner organisations. We have been working in Sudan for 50 years with people in all parts of Sudan. We have contributed to the reconciliation of various armed groups and, through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and our Catholic and Protestant members and partners in Sudan, including Caritas and the Sudan Council of Churches, been actively involved in the process leading up to the signing of the CPA. We are committed to continuing to assist people in need in Darfur, the North and the South of Sudan, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
FAQ: Southern Sudan referendum
Jan 09, 2011
What is the referendum about?
The referendum will decide whether Sudan will continue to be one country, or if the people of the southern parts will vote to separate from the north and form a new independent nation in Africa. The referendum is the product of a peace agreement that ended a civil war between north and south that lasted for over two decades and is thought to have killed 2 million people.
Who will vote?
Only southern Sudanese can vote in the referendum. Approximately 3.9 million southern Sudanese have registered to vote. The big majority of these live in the south. More than 100,000 will be voting near their homes in northern Sudan and another approximately 60,000 will vote in exile. At least 60% of registered voters must cast their vote for the referendum to be valid.
When will the referendum take place?
The referendum itself will happen between January 9 and January 15, 2011. Preliminary results may appear a few days after the voting concludes but a final and official result may not be announced before early- or mid-February.
Is the referendum the end of the peace process?
No. The peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan runs until July 2011. Between now and July, a lot of issues will need to be settled. These are difficult issues such as sharing of wealth (most importantly oil), border disagreements and demarcation, issues of citizenship, currency, national assets and external debt. If the outcome of the referendum is separation, negotiations may be expected to become extremely tense, sensitive and complicated.
What about the border areas?
A number of transitional areas between north and south offer up particularly sensitive political disagreements. This is true for the area of Abyei which is expected to have its own referendum, but also for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where people will not get to vote in a referendum.
What will happen with the oil?
The majority of Sudan’s oil resources are in southern Sudan but the only pipeline and port facilities are in northern Sudan. Thus, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, northern and southern Sudan will have to continue to work together on all matters relating to oil production and revenues.
What does the referendum mean for the conflict in Darfur?
Darfur is not in southern Sudan but in the north-west of the country and the conflict issues and parties are different. A final and peaceful conclusion to the north-south conflict could have a positive impact on ongoing attempts to bring peace to Darfur, but this remains to be seen.
Nils Carstensen of Dan Church Aid is ACT’s Special Correspondent from southern Sudan for the period of the referendum.
United Nations informational map on the referendum is available here.