The clock is literally ticking in Juba in the run-up to the Southern Sudan referendum on secession.
It’s very hard not to be quite tense this weekend over the conduct of the referendum (I even managed to have a stress dream last night about voting). My friend Zoe has written on the longevity of the idea of secession – as a potential political reality or pragmatic bargaining chip since the 70s. A lot of the media, taking opinions from registering Southern Sudanese, are noting the proliferation of comments about this ‘historical moment’. Potentially some of the tension I’m feeling is because this particular historical moment has been so long used as a potential threat or reward, but not thought about as a practical reality for particularly long?
I am not feeling tense about the actual outcome of the referendum, or that events will turn violent over the weekend and war will resume – most credible commentators don’t believe this will happen, and I agree. I’m far more concerned over the 6-month transition period – whether the issues that have been put off will be resolved, how the Abyei situation will play out, and even whether some people will become impatient and frustrated when a ‘New Sudan’ (or whatever it’ll be called – I’m currently in favour of Equatoria) fails to emerge at the end of six months.
Either way, the more I read about people celebrating the vote, the more I feel that I should put aside my tensions for Sunday, at least. The tensions and fear are – as far as I can tell from the reporting – mostly from people in the North, fearing reprisals after a result of secession. Most people in the South and elsewhere are excited, including in London.
Photo credit to New Sudan Vision.