ANALYSIS: Sudan Referendum

A man from the Dinka tribe holds a placard during a demonstration in Khartoum

For Sudan, January 9th will bring with it either a sense of closure after decades of civil war or a new wave of chaos in Africa’s largest state.

As the January 9th referendum on southern Sudan’s independence approaches, concerns are mounting that the massive logistical challenge posed by the vote could inadvertently set off a new spiral of instability and violence. The long list of tasks to be completed before the vote can go forward includes: training vote officials, registering voters in the south, as well as the printing and distribution of pamphlets over incredibly rough terrain. Any attempts by Khartoum to move the date of the referendum will be met by fierce opposition and outright hostility by the south, where many people question whether or not the north is acting in good faith.

Critically, nomads in the contested, oil-rich Abyei region have threatened to go to war if they are excluded from the referendum process. Regions such as Abyei, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan are not bound by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to hold referendums on independence. Instead, they are to hold ‘popular consultations,’ which have the naïve stated purpose of ‘making the people’s opinions known.’

Conflict over the vague political future of these three key regions– most of which fought on the southern side against the north in the civil war- could end up being a catalyst that pulls Sudan back into open conflict.

The president of the southern Sudan autonomous region, Salva Kiir, asked for patience from southerners while the vote was being organized. He did however warn on the possibility of violence if the vote is jeopardized:

“There have also been worrying signs of foot-dragging from our partners in the North… I would like to make it clear, that no disruption or delay to these referenda can be tolerated.

The vehicle we are driving has no reverse gear and when we are pushed to the wall we will be left with no option but to defend ourselves… Let us all work for peaceful divorce so that we can still afford smiling at one another whenever mutual business brings us together”

Back to Top


Lost your password?