"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

South Sudan Referendum Begins on Jan. 9th

This story hasn't been overly exposed in the American media, but in five days (Jan. 9th, 2011) South Sudan will begin to vote on a referendum to stay a part of Sudan or to split, creating a new autonomous country. Voting will continue until January 15th. This vote comes as part of the 2005 peace agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, following the very bloody Darfur conflict.

It would be extremely surprising if the South Sudan did not vote for independence in a fair election. Yet, the population of South Sudan are far from a unified people, with great differences in ethnicity, customs, language (over 400 dialects are spoken in this small area), religion, etc. Violence across clan and ethnic lines is very common-- although that's hardly unusual for Africa.

Hillary Clinton has called the South Sudan Referendum "a ticking time bomb."

"The referendum on independence for Southern Sudan is a 'ticking time bomb', US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

"The vote is due in January and Mrs Clinton said the outcome was 'inevitable' - backing for secession."

Later Clinton says: "But the real problem is, what happens when the inevitable happens and the referendum is passed and the south declares independence. What happens to the oil revenues?"

For what it's worth, the UN has given its stamp of approval on the referendum on Dec. 22.

"'Based on our observations so far, we believe that a credible referendum can take place,' said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the Panel and a former President of Tanzania, at a news conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, at the end of the team’s third visit to the country since October."

The situation may not be as dire as Clinton portrays. However, one of the factors that has kept violence from raging out of control in the area has been international scrutiny and public opinion. Foreign interest in Sudan outside of the immediate region has waned though, and is unlikely to return unless further violence breaks out. The foreign press loves to report and criticize third-world violence, but doesn't focus on nation building and life after peace resolutions with quite as much zeal.

What happens next? We'll see very soon. Doubtlessly, there will be protests, claims (likely from Khartoum) of a lack of consensus, improper polling, and so forth.

It is a place to watch, especially for the next two weeks or so.

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