Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Which Way Now?

The people of S. Sudan surprised the world with their peaceful, well-organized, and successful Referendum vote in January.  In fact, their enthusiastic first taste of democracy puts most Western democracies to shame: over 99% of registered voters (millions) turned up at the polls to cast their historic votes--and over 99% of the voters chose secession.

Now the question looms: what's next?  On July 9 their country will be born.  It is expected that the longterm ruler in the North, Omar al-Bashir, will allow the separation to occur, in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions against the North.  

However, on the horizon is the ongoing dispute over the oil-rich region of Abyei. It will vote whether to become part of the North or part of the new country in the South.  The vote to determine its fate has been indefinitely delayed by the North, while they send thousands of northerners into Abyei as new settlers.  This is reminiscent of how the Chinese gov't moved huge numbers of Chinese into Tibet to weaken the Tibetan culture and independence.  

Seen here is a picture of downtown Rumbek, in Southern Sudan.  There is no traffic light, but rather a painted sign of one, showing the newly-graded roads toward Wau and Juba.  (S. Sudan, which is the size of France, has only 30 miles of paved road.) Let's hope the leadership in the South will also show its people a way toward stability and development in the months ahead.

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