The referendum, scheduled to be held in January 2011, is one of the major provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Nairobi on January 9, 2005.
The CPA is the most important achievement for both the Government of the Sudan and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) who signed that Agreement. The two parties bore the brunt of the conflict which lasted for 21 years. They have experienced the suffering, destruction, loss of lives and tragedies associated with war.
They realised that there is nothing that can justify this high price. The leadership of the two sides repeatedly reiterated that there is no going back to war and that dialogue is the only way to sort out issues that may arise in the implementation of the CPA.
The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is going well. The remaining items, which are currently under consideration by the two parties can not justify going back to war.
The Sudanese people are eagerly waiting for the referendum in order either to retain the unity of the country or have two states that live in peace. There are many things that bring the Sudanese together even if the people of Southern Sudan choose separation. This can be illustrated below:
There are more than two million Southerners living in the North. They cannot move overnight to the South.
The majority of them have been born, educated, brought-up and employed in the North.
There will be practical difficulties for them to relocate to the South in short time. They, combined with large number of intermarriages, will be a strong human bond between the two parts of the country irrespective of the referendum result.
The backbone of the Sudanese economy is the oil which the country began exporting in 1999. Around 70 per cent of the current oil production comes from fields located in the South. It is exported through a- 1610- Km-long pipeline to the export ports on the Red Sea. The South, which is land locked, will need to use these oil infrastructure until it finds another option if it decides so.
The two economies compliment each other. The South can export tropical fruits, tea, coffee, timber and tobacco, to the North which does not produce these products.
The latter can export some items that can not be produced in sufficient quantities in the South such as cement, sugar, edible oil, and sorghum. This will be a positive factor in their relations.
The writer is a diplomat at Sudan Embassy in Nairobi.