Splitting Sudan: Count down to referendum – time for peace, not threats

As the count down to the January referendum in the largest country in Africa narrows, the international community needs to step in as friends and peace crusaders to help the Sudanese people freely make their choice: to split or not to split Sudan. Threats and sanctions against the government at this very crucial moment in its history will do no good.

It is alarming though that many international media reports are focusing on fears of possible renewed conflicts in Sudan, and on statements by some senior US officials warning and threatening more sanctions against the Sudanese government, should the referendum be delayed or fails to hold.

Referendum committee in the South

The BBC in a recent report quotes US Secretary of States Hilary Clinton as saying the government would face consequences including additional pressure and deeper international isolation if the referendum is delayed, manipulated or utterly fails to hold.

This is out of the point. Sanctions and threats have hardly helped a political situation in the world, but rather, have provoked the other side to remain adamant perhaps for the sake of sovereignty’s pride. Warning a sovereign nation at a most crucial moment in its history can only add to the stress, difficulties and challenges that accompany such actions – organizing a vote that could for good or bad change forever the course of the country, Sudan.

Such diplomacy as displayed mostly by US officials over the years has provoked countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and China just to name a few on the list, to, in a way of national pride, remain adamant, refusing to bulge on issues of international concern. These countries cannot be blamed. If the US uses a more polite language and manner of addressing issues of international importance in relation to sovereign nations’ status, then, there is no doubt that countries around the globe will apply more goodwill in their actions.

Sudan as such needs friends, peace crusaders who should encourage the government in Khartoum led by Omar Al Bashir to remain committed on the road to the referendum, and ensure a peaceful vote on January 9.

What Sudan does not need now are provocative statements that will add unnecessary pressure on the whole process of organizing the referendum.

Sudan does not also need unnecessary media reports that could only end up inciting the people in the North or South to riot. Reporting alleged fears of possible out-burst of conflicts in the advent of a failed or delayed referendum could further prepare the people’s minds to fighting. When the media report of a looming danger, definitely, the people will begin putting up some strategies on how to confront that danger – the strategy could equally be to pick up arms for renewed fighting.

Sudan is at a threshold. The UN should be able to drum-up strategies at ensuring an open and successful referendum on January 9. The North and South Sudan need to be prepared psychologically for the vote. Threats and sanctions can not help the people to be psychologically prepared.

Truth be told. The North and South may have their own issues to settle through the upcoming referendum, but only confidence and mutual trust can help the people in this process. What the international media, the UN, US officials, and other stakeholders in Sudan can do now, is to help implant that mutual trust and confidence in the North and South. The people in the two regions should be helped to see eye-to-eye on this very important issue.

This is the only way the referendum can succeed. When the Sudanese government feels no pressure from whosoever, it will have a stronger will to put the books straight for voting to take place on January 9, 2011.

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