This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Human freedom and happiness are the right of all people. Yet since Sudan gained independence from the British in 1956, there has never been any kind of real freedom for the citizenry. The country’s politics have been dominated by authoritarian regimes, particularly the regime made up of the fundamentalist Arab Muslims in Khartoum.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) brokered by the international community with much support from the United States, ended the 21-year civil war between north and south Sudan. This peace deal paved the way for a new nation in the making. Part of this peace deal was to allow the people of southern Sudan to democratically make a decision through ballots whether to remain part of a united Sudan or to vote for an independent southern Sudan. In this article, the author collected and analyzed the opinions of the southern Sudanese people as to whether they will be voting for unity or separation in the upcoming referendum.
The registration process for the January 9, 2011 referendum has already begun. Polling stations are jammed with excited multitudes of people who are determined to vote for a new nation-south Sudan.
A few days ago, I spoke to my dear mother in Nakuru, Kenya, where she has been residing for the last three years. She was overjoyed to have had the chance to register for this upcoming referendum. It will be the first of its kind in her lifetime, the first time she’s had a say about her future. While we were talking, I asked her whether she had decided if she would vote for unity or separation. She giggled and said “we have had enough of Arabs; we need our own country where we will not be discriminated against.”
Like many others in Sudan, my mother is not an exception. She has never had a chance to vote. She has never had a voice in Sudan as to what her rights are and how she was being deprived of those rights. The CPA gives all Sudanese citizens a clear roadmap as to what their rights are. It also gives the entire nation a chance to dream of a better tomorrow.
The 21 year civil war claimed two million precious lives and was responsible for four million people in displacement camps across the continent of Africa. The father of Africa, and the icon of peace and beacon of hope for many across the globe, Nelson Mandela, stated in one of his speeches that “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” (Nelson Mandela). Southern Sudanese have been consistently denied freedom. At this time, at this moment, the people of southern Sudan are bitter and ready to form their own nation, a nation that will accept them for who they are regardless of their social class, religion, and political affiliations. They dream of a new nation – a nation that will treasure justice, democracy, and treat her citizens with dignity. They dream of a new nation, the Republic of Southern Sudan. Regardless of limited resources, time constraints, inaccessibility to the rural villages and lack of political will from our brothers in the north, the people of southern Sudan will march in glory to the Promised Land as the votes are counted on January 9th.
I challenge all southern Sudanese throughout the world to get out in big numbers and register to vote for your future after the upcoming referendum. This is your time, your future and your dream that you have been yearning for so long. Our late leader, Dr. John Garang, alluded to this dream in his speech in Rumbek. "I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years have brought to you CPA on a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience life in the bush. When the time comes to vote at the referendum, it is your golden opportunity to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice.” (Dr. John Garang Rumbek, Southern Sudan).
There is no excuse for anyone of us not to vote. This is what we have been craving for, it is a one time opportunity, and the results of the referendum will not be able to be reversed. The northern Sudanese government is busy day and night planning to sabotage the vote but their ill intentions against us will be in vain. Brothers and sisters of southern Sudan let us say to Khartoum with our votes that the time for old politics is over and we will not tolerate injustice any longer. We need the right to rule our own country as we best see fit for our children and the generations to come. We can be good neighbors to the north and to other countries surrounding us if they can show goodwill, as well. Your vote is your gun, brothers and sisters, and it is a powerful gun that will set us free. Our votes will affect the future of our children. If we fail to vote for separation, that decision will affect many generations to come.
The north will do everything in its power to rig this voting. But don’t be discouraged. The world is watching. Don’t stop the walk; keep pushing until we are finally free. This is our golden opportunity, an opportunity that may not come our way again. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said ‘freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” We must not settle for less. Through our votes, we will be telling the north that we are demanding our freedom. There have been concerns that southern Sudan will be a failed state, Sudan is already in the list of failed states and it will deteriorate after the south succeeds. But the Southern Sudanese people are united more than ever before. There is every reason to think that under the leadership of the current president of south Sudan, President Salva Kiir, the south will have every opportunity to be a peaceful and prosperous nation, able to compete in the global market.
In order for peace to prevail in Sudan, we must vote for separation. It is the only viable solution that will prevent Africa’s largest nation from returning to civil war. Unity has been given sufficient chances since 1972 but the north has been unwilling to make unity a priority. I am hopeful that after the referendum votes have been counted we can proudly claim ourselves citizens of a new country – Southern Sudan.
Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a masters degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder and Executive Director of Rebuild Sudan.