Many Sudanese living in the United States were able to cast ballots in their country’s first national elections in almost a quarter century.
Among them are members of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” thousands of young boys who were separated from their families and forced to walk about 1,000 miles to reach safe haven from Sudan’s second civil war.
Mac Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” living in the United States said he did not vote because he could not meet the difficult requirements.
But Deng said he is concerned about the possibility of a divided Sudan that might result from the election.
“The election is good right now, but the problem is that the southern Sudan nominee which is Yasir Arman withdrew before election. We can tell that Omar Bashir is still going to be the president. I like it because I’m supporting unity in Sudan and Omar is also supporting unity,” he said.
The elections are a key part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that ended two decades of fighting between Sudan's northern and southern regions.
They are a prelude to a referendum on independence scheduled to be held next year in the south.
But Deng said such referendum if and when it is held should produce a new and united Sudan not a divided country.
“When the SPLA (the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) which is the ruling party in the South right now, when they took arms against the National Congress Party (headed by President Bashir) they took arms for change for a new Sudan,” Deng said.
He said the SPLA’s original aim of a democratic confederated Sudan might have changed after the death of SPLA leader John Garang, who died in a 2005 helicopter crash.
“When the leader of the SPLM which was John Garang died in an air crash, there was no vision left for the southern Sudan. The leaders left right now they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. That’s why they are seeking separation rather than unity because they think they don’t have much power to go ahead in a united Sudan. They don’t have much power to come together with our people in the north,” he said.
Deng said it makes no sense to have a divided Sudan in the 21st Century.
“This is the time people should come together – people of different religions, people of different color, they should come together and be one Sudan and go from there,” Deng said.
He said even though he and thousands of other young boys were driven out of Sudan, he believes a united Sudan would be beneficial to all Sudanese.
“I was driven out by war but the cause of war was not a meaningful thing that can divide us from being one people,” Deng said.
Deng said he was not worried that the government of an independent southern Sudan would be able to sustain itself. Instead he said he was worried about the possibility of a collapsed southern economy.
“Sudan is a rich country; it depends on oil. When that oil is cut in half it will become little for two nations. But not only that, there is a central part of Sudan called Abye, which is geographically in the northern part. That part of the country is (inhabited by) Dinka people who are actually southern African people. If the country is divided they are going to be cut in the north and that’s where the oil lies. So the big percentage of the oil will be cut to the north and the smaller side will come to the south. And that would bring the economy down,” Deng said.
Deng said most of the nearly 4,000 “Lost Boys” who settled in the United States are doing well academically. He said some are supporting Sudan unity while others are supporting southern independence.
He said most of the “Lost Boys” are in touch with their relatives back home through cell phones.