tagged w/ Referendum
On Sunday, after decades of war and more than two million lives lost, southern Sudan will get the moment it has been yearning for, a referendum on independence. All signs point to the people here voting overwhelmingly for secession, and the largest country on the continent will then begin the delicate process of splitting in two.
The United States government has played a pivotal role in bringing this moment to fruition, pushing the northern and southern Sudanese to sign a peace treaty in 2005 that set the referendum in motion. A proud, new African country is about to be born, but it will step onto the world stage with shaky legs. As it stands now, southern Sudan is one of the poorest places on earth.
Most people here scrape by on less than 75 cents a day. More than three-quarters of adults cannot read. Decades of civil war and marginalization have left the economy so crushed that just about everything is imported, down to eggs. According to Oxfam, a teenage girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing elementary school.
Tens of thousands have flocked back to take part in the referendum, and some analysts, possibly reinforcing stereotypes of Africa as always teetering on the edge, warn south Sudan could be the next Somalia, awash in violence. Already, aid agencies are ringing the alarm about a lack of food, water, health care and sanitation.
“We have an unfolding humanitarian crisis, layered on top of an existing and forsaken one,” said the International Rescue Committee, an American aid organization that works in Sudan.
But this is a land of shared sacrifice, and that may be a cohesive force that helps hold southern Sudan together. After all the years of guerrilla warfare and hardship, oppression and persecution at the hands of the Arabs who rule Sudan, people here are deeply invested in holding a peaceful referendum and building the world’s newest nation.
“We are underdeveloped, yes, but we will do it,” said Gideon Gatpan Thoar, the information minister of Unity State, near the north-south border.
United Nations officials here say something remarkable has already happened. In 2009, ethnic fighting swept the south, with several thousand people killed in military-grade attacks, fueled by longstanding ethnic rivalries and a sudden, suspicious increase in high-powered weaponry. Many southerners suspected that the government in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, was instigating the violence, just as it had in the past when Khartoum fomented a civil war within a civil war.
But in the past six months, there has been almost no major ethnic violence. One of the last holdouts, a renegade general who had been leading a revolt deep in the bush, recently agreed to a cease-fire. “What we are seeing is a real effort for reconciliation,” said a United Nations official in Juba, who was not authorized to speak to the news media and spoke anonymously. “All eyes are on the referendum. They’re all trying to get along now.”
But the official added, “Everybody knows these issues will come up in the future.”On Sunday, after decades of war and more than two million lives lost, southern Sudan... more
The expected emergence of a new state in southern Sudan following a January independence referendum is causing alarm in Cairo because the signs are the infant state will join other African countries battling Egypt for a greater share of the Nile River's waters.
The southern Sudan leader, Salva Kiir, recently visited President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, one of the upstream states opposed to Egypt's control of the Nile waters, to discuss building hydroelectric power stations to enhance development of the infant state.
That is guaranteed to incense Cairo, which vehemently opposes any upstream projects that would diminish the flow of the Nile, which runs into the Mediterranean at Alexandria.
Sudan lies astride the middle reaches of the Nile, the source of 90 percent of Egypt's water. The White Nile, which joins the Blue Nile in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, runs through southern Sudan. The Blue, which rises in the Ethiopian highlands, supplies more than two-thirds of the Nile's water flow.
The upstream states -- Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia -- demand that Egypt and Sudan relinquish long-held rights to 74 percent of the Nile's waters.
These are enshrined in a 1929 agreement from the British colonial era. Egypt and Sudan refuse to give an inch. In May, most of the upstream states grouped together in a new alliance and gave the downstream states a year to agree to a more equitable share of the Nile waters.
They need this because of burgeoning populations, a growing demand for electricity and irrigation for food production and an imperative to stimulate development.
Under the 1929 agreement, Egypt had veto power over all upstream projects that involve the Nile's flow, particularly dam construction.
AllAfrica.com reported that Museveni told Kiir Uganda wants more dams to boost its generating power from 300 megawatts to 3,800 MW over the next five years.
"We also have plans to generate 17,000 MW by 2025," the Ugandan leader disclosed.
According to U.S. diplomatic cables unveiled by WikiLeaks, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sought to convince Washington to postpone the scheduled Jan. 8 independence referendum in southern Sudan because of the potential loss of Nile water.
Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, has strong links with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which has ruled southern Sudan since a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between the region, mainly Christian and animist, and the Arab Muslim north.
So do Kenya and Uganda, which supported the southerners' struggle against the Khartoum regime of President Omar al-Bashir.
Indeed, Ethiopia's leader, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, one of the most militant of Egypt's critics, claimed in November that Cairo sought to destabilize his country by supporting rebel groups opposed to his regime.
That accusation, devoid of any diplomatic discourse, apparently caught the Egyptians unawares and marked a sharp escalation in the diplomatic war of words over the Nile.
airo denied that. But Egypt and other Arab states provided support for Eritrean separatists who fought for independence from Ethiopia in 1961-91.
Zenawi went on to warn Egypt it would be defeated if it invaded Ethiopia, presumably through Sudan or Eritrea, which border Ethiopia.
However, undertaking such a complex operation is difficult to imagine, even though Egypt considers the Nile a vital national security issue.
"Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story," Zenawi cautioned.
Egypt did try to invade Ethiopia in the 19th century after it had conquered Sudan. But that campaign ended in failure in 1875.
Why Zenawi would want to raise the temperature on the Nile issue right now is not entirely clear.
But he has domestic problems and the Nile provides a diversion. He has infuriated Egypt by building five huge dams on the Nile over the last decade and has started construction of a new $1.4 billion hydroelectric facility.
Osman Mirghani, senior editor-at-large of the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, was concerned enough to observe that the Nile question "is something that in the near future may come to overshadow all other regional issues."
"Anybody listening to the statements, observing the frantic maneuvers, or watching the growing tension, might already feel that the Nile Water War has begun in earnest."The expected emergence of a new state in southern Sudan following a January... more
With recess over, it sounds like one of the plans up for debate is the referendum on changing the voting system for future elections.
"MPs will debate a bill paving the way for a referendum on 5 May 2011 on changing to an alternative vote system."-BBC
The issue of a new system appeared after the last election, with some protests during negotiations which stated the current system is not balanced and relies on key marginals. The referendum was favoured by the Liberal Democrats and became a part of the coalition deal to form the current Government.
So far Labour mainly opposes the sections about changing contingency boundaries and the Conservatives mainly opposing the change to the current system.
"The coalition says it is unfair that some MPs need almost twice as many votes to get elected as others as their constituencies are much larger in terms of registered voters.
Labour say the proposals to "equalise" constituency sizes - as well as cutting their number by 650 to 600 - will disproportionately hurt Labour-supporting areas and is equivalent to "gerrymandering".
The coalition has accused Labour of "opposition for opposition' s sake"."-BBCWith recess over, it sounds like one of the plans up for debate is the referendum on... more
The article talks about the plans for a independence referendum were pledged to take place on Nov 2010 on St. Andrews Day. However, the Scottish Government stated the referendum would not take place before 2011.
Two of the questions planned for the referendum would have asked if there should be increased powers for the Scottish Parliament and if the powers should enable independence.
The confirmation made has been criticised by opposition leaders in Scotland who "accused the Scottish government of "running scared"."-BBC. However the SNP stated the bill for a referendum was pushed back because "The opposition parties have made it very clear that they want to block a referendum bill"-BBC quoting Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.The article talks about the plans for a independence referendum were pledged to take... more