Monday, February 7, 2011

South Sudan Votes to Become the World’s Newest Country

By Ella Arnold

The people of South Sudan, who have faced persecution from the north for more than twenty years, have voted in a landslide election to secede from northern Sudan, resulting in the creation of the world’s newest country later this summer.

The major source of the civil wars that have plagued the country of Sudan for more than two decades stems from the religious differences between Sudan’s mostly Arab northern region and its primarily animist and Christian southern region. More than 2 million people were killed in Sudan before a peace agreement was adopted in 2005. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity committed against the people of the Darfur region of Sudan.

Today officials announced the election’s final vote count from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Of the more than 3.8 million southern Sudanese, 98.83 percent voted to secede from the north to form their own country.

Official independence will be declared on July 9, 2011. Plans for a new capital building in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, have already been proposed. Last month, the government announced that South Sudan has been suggested as the official name for the new country.

Issues such as citizenship and oil-revenue rights, however, still are significant hurdles that the people of South Sudan must overcome if they truly want to gain total independence from the north. Furthermore, South Sudan is one of the poorest regions in the world due to extreme poverty and the longstanding civil war with northern Sudan.

The United States has said that recognizing southern independence may eventually lead to the lifting of the economic sanctions previously placed on the north. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised today’s developments in South Sudan as “a historic step” toward the implementation of Sudan’s comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

For some related programs at The Commonwealth Club, see:
Land Grab in Africa: The Case of Ethiopia: 2/1/11
The Last Jews of Yemen: 3/14/11
Jesse Jackson's 2004 speech, in which he discusses the humanitarian crisis in Sudan
David Kay's 2004 speech, in which he includes Sudan in his discussion of failed states


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