News / Africa

Religious Leaders Urge Strong International Support Ahead of Sudan Referendum

Victoria Cavaliere

Religious leaders from southern Sudan are urging strong international pressure on Sudan's northern-based government to ensure a January referendum on independence for the South takes place on time. Preparations for the vote have been running behind schedule and tensions have risen between Khartoum and the semi-autonomous government in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. The fears have risen that the country could slip back into civil war should the referendum be delayed.

South Sudan was granted the right to hold the January 9, 2011 referendum – which is widely expected to lead to independence – in a 2005 peace agreement with the Khartoum government that ended Africa's longest civil war.

With less than two months before the vote, some analysts and diplomats fear that Sudan could slip back into war again.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month called the country a "ticking time bomb". She said the south's move to independence will be a very hard fact for the north to face – and the threat of war is a distinct reality.

A group of religious leaders from Southern Sudan gathered at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City recently, and said the south's secession appears inevitable.

Samul Kobia, the Ecumenical Special Envoy to the Sudan from the All Africa Conference of Churches says international support for the south after the referendum is essential.

"Without the international community taking their role and responsibility seriously and to try to use whatever leverage that we have, we are likely to see that this process and the framework of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] which has been the best way of resolving the conflict in Sudan peacefully, will not lead to the results that are being anticipated," Kobia said.

One of the key issues that is yet to be finalized is the demarcation of Sudan's oil-rich north – south border and the status of Abyei region, which lies in that area. Talks on Abyei's status have been delayed.

Earlier this month a Sudanese military official accused southern troops of crossing a disputed border point, saying the move threatened to derail the referendum.

Ramadan Chan, General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, calls for an international security forces to be stationed along the border before and after the vote.

"As we speak, now, both sides – the government of southern Sudan, the government of the north – have actually moved heavy armies to the border and there is just a little distance between them," said Chan. "It will only take two or three soldiers to fire arms and then we have war. And so, the international community, we feel can play a bigger role by creating a buffer zone between these two armies."

U.N. peacekeepers have already stepped up monitoring along the north-south frontier, and the U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain LeRoy told the Security Council recently that the U.N. Mission in Sudan was considering deploying troops from the rest of the country to the region.

The religious leaders also said monitoring of the referendum process must be robust, as there are fears on both sides that the vote will be rigged.

John Ashworth, Director of the Dennis Hurley Conference of Churches, said the international community must be prepared to handle a possible dispute of the results – or Khartoum's refusal to allow the south to declare independence.

"We were in a diplomatic mission where we were told, oh, unilateral declaration of independence is unacceptable," Ashworth said. "So actually, we've already told Khartoum that if you rig the election, if you manage to find a way that the referendum gives a result that doesn't respect the rights of the southerners, don't worry, because we've already told the southerners that they can't find any way of expressing their self-determination."

Also of particular concern to the panel was the safety of the safety of churches, Christians and the some 2.5 million southern Sudanese living in the north.

Reverend Ramadan Chan said considerations over the safety of these people and institutions has not yet been adequately addressed.

"So far, the church has suffered under the government, the present government, and we feel if secession happens, the north will opt for an Islamic Country, and therefore the Christians and the churches in the north will suffer persecution," Chan added.

The north-south war was separate from the conflict in Sudan's Western region of Darfur. This war has left about 300-thousand people dead and thousands more homeless families.

The United Nations has been pressing for a final peace agreement in Darfur before the January 9 referendum.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs