Sudan Referendum: How western media are distracting public from true picture

Starting even before Sunday, January 9, the day the referendum in Sudan was scheduled to begin, the western media were, and are still in a global campaign of portraying a certain ‘euphoria’, on the part of South Sudan – intoxicating the audiences with the idea that secession is the surest thing the South will vote for – to become the newest nation in the world, while utterly alienating the public from the real picture on the ground – the choice and fate of the people of Abyei – an oil-rich region bordering both Southern and Northern Sudan.
Many people want a united Sudan, but this wish is almost eclipsed by western media

Abyei is a fertile, 4,000-square-mile area that lies between the north and south of Sudan. On January 9, Abyei’s residents were scheduled to vote in a referendum to decide which region they want to be a part of, north or South Sudan. Their vote was to occur simultaneously with the main referendum on whether Sudanese in the south want independence from the north, or prefer to remain united as one country. Both referenda were mandated by a 2005 peace agreement that ended the 22-year war between the Sudanese government headquartered in Khartoum (northern region), and rebels in the south. During earlier negotiations, the parties could not agree on whether Abyei, whose oil account for 25 percent of Sudan’s annual production, belonged to the north or the south, so they scheduled a separate vote. But unfortunately, that separate vote is still to take place, as it failed to be held on January 9.

This region – Abyei, can not be isolated in the geopolitical situation of Sudan. There is confusion – and such confusion has marred the importance of the referendum currently taking place in the South. The two ethnic groups that occupy Abyei – namely, the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka each owe allegiance to either the rebels in the south or the Sudanese government in Khartoum. To be specific, the Misseriya largely support the government in Sudan while the Ngok Dinka allied with the rebels and fought alongside the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM – the umbrella organization formed by the rebels in the south).

At the moment, the government in Khartoum and the rebels in the south have yet to agree on what constitutes, for voting purposes, a “resident” of Abyei.  However should the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya finally get to vote, Abyei will either respectively go to the south or to the north.

Fertile and oil-rich Abyei is strategic to Sudan's future

With the stakes so high, there are warning signals, that if the residency issue is not settled and soon – through the yet-to-be-held referendum for the Abyei people, the situation could lead to a renewed civil war.

This is the true picture of the geopolitical ‘deadlock’ – which has been largely ignored, or maybe, to say the least, under-reported by western media. The Abyei palaver would definitely continue to haunt Sudan – even if the South decides to secede – as widely reported by western corporate media organizations.

Those western governments and media organizations who are pushing for secession, should have calmed down, sought means of assisting Sudan to solve the Abyei problem, before pressing for a so-called high profiled referendum in the South – or at the least, they should have made sure that all went well for a simultaneous referendum in the South and Abyei.

Already, Aljazeera reports that 23 people have been killed in three days of deadly clashes in Abyei, beginning on Friday – two days before voting began in the South.

The rival Misseriya and Ngok Dinka peoples of the disputed territory have reported that the number of people killed in the past three days could be as high as 33. The deadly violence involved the Misseriya people, loyal to the Khartoum government in the north, and the Dinka Ngok tribe, which is fighting alongside the rebels in the South.

Charles Abyei, head of the local legislative council, told Al Jazeera that the situation was still “tense”, and that a joint security meeting was being held between authorities from neighboring Southern Kordofan and Abyei.

He said that at least six people from the Misseriya side were killed when they clashed with armed policemen from the Dinka side, belonging to the SPLM.

Misseriya people are getting ready for more clashes by way of revenge, according to Aljazeera.

But take a look around the pages or websites of mainstream western media organizations, and see if you will find this very disturbing picture as to the situation in Sudan. Those media outlets that attempt to report on this issue, limit their reports on the clashes and killings – and this is done only in one, two or three lines. The ‘euphoria’ in the western media is rather on a secession that “is almost certain”. Photos and images are of people who are dancing their way into the ballot offices to cast their votes to ‘break free from bondage’. In fact, it is as if every living thing in south Sudan is obsessed, or maybe, hypnotized with a sense of secession, in the eyes of the western media.

One thing is clear, even if the week-long referendum in the south – whose results according to officials should be expected four weeks later, confirms that a “YES” vote came from the south – allowing the region to become an independent nation, it will be recorded in history, as the referendum whose outcome was hugely influenced by the west. Reporting the outcome of the referendum – that is, secession, by the south, before voting started, and even while voting is still going on, is nothing short of pushing people to forcefully make a choice they may not fully be aware of the consequences. This is just what the west may achieve, with major corporate media organizations as vehicles for the political decision – as they are pushing the southerners in Sudan to secede. After all, the oil in the south is the driving force behind this covert campaign by the west.

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