Independence or War

With South Sudan’s referendum on independence set for January 9, the world holds its breath. Undoubtedly, South Sudan would face colossal challenges as a sovereign state, but the alternative – an inevitable return to war – would be incalculably worse, both for Sudan and for Africa.

STRASBOURG – In the 1990’s, the world averted its eyes to genocide in Rwanda, and to the “Great Lakes War” in eastern Congo, which claimed upward of five million lives – the most in any war since World War II. Will such silence and neglect prevail again if civil war is renewed in Sudan?

The peace deal struck in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005 between Sudan’s government and rebels from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) committed both sides, at war for most of the previous 50 years, to work for unity. But, as the so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) reaches its climax, the SPLM, based in the autonomous region of South Sudan, has abandoned all pretense that unity with the North and the government in Khartoum is either possible or desirable.

A referendum scheduled for January 9 will give voters in the South the opportunity to create their own sovereign state. A separate but simultaneous vote in the oil-rich province of Abyei will allow voters to choose if they want to join the North or South.

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