A vote for secession is all but certain in the independence
referendum that begins Sunday. South Sudan is anticipating
independence and a chance to build its own country.
Two days remain until South Sudanese vote in an unprecedented
referendum to decide whether or not to split Sudan, Africa's largest
country, into two independent states.
Sudan's wars have been almost constant since independence from
Britain 55 years ago, culminating in a brutal two-decade civil war
between the Arab and Muslim north and non-Arab, Christian, and
The majority of southerners are convinced that life in their new
state - a vote for secession is the more likely outcome - will be
far better than it is under Sudan's current construction, if only
because they will be free from the oppressive yoke of unity by
force, imposed by successive governments in Khartoum.
In 2005, Sudan's warring parties in the north and south signed a
peace deal that gave the south substantial autonomy, but required
the two sides to commit to attempting to "make unity attractive"
over the six years before southerners would have the chance to vote
in an independence referendum.
In recent months, southern officials have repeated the refrain
that "unity has not been made attractive," and it is clear that the
issues that divided the north and south for decades - religion,
race, and resources, among others - have not been resolved since the
peace was signed.
"The south has been derailed out of history from the first time
they got into contact with other people, with forces from outside
the Sudan and also forces inside Sudan," said Pagan Amum, who heads
the south's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement. "It is only
now, lately, that the people of Southern Sudan are going to
determine their future, as free people."
South Sudan's long struggle
The struggle waged by the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the
southern rebel movement whose motto is "victory is certain," was
"Many many heroes, we lost our loved ones for freedom," goes a
catchy tune by Emmanuel Kembe, a young South Sudanese musician who
has been touring this oil-rich yet under-developed region getting
out the secession message.
This campaign is hardly necessary in a place that is buzzing with
excitement for Sunday's vote, when the vast majority of southerners
are expected to tick the box next to a single raised palm, which
represents "secession" on the ballot for those who are not literate.
What will happen this Sunday now appears to be a foregone
conclusion: tens of thousands of registered South Sudanese will line
up at polling stations to cast their votes, while domestic and
international observers look on and hoards of journalists document
the historic moment.
"Everything appears to be on track," said David Gressly, who
heads the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in the south. "The
many skeptics who never thought Southern Sudan would be ready to
hold its referendum by next Sunday were proven wrong."
Gressly told reporters in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on