The January 2011 Referendum for Independence Means Southern Sudanese Need Our Help
In 2008 and 2009, I journeyed hundreds of miles with Salva Dut in Southern Sudan. One thing consistently impressed me wherever we traveled: the spirit of the Southern Sudanese I met. After surviving civil war for 38 out of the last 54 years, millions still face living conditions like these:
- No clean, safe water for millions of people
- A 16 year old female has a higher chance of dying from childbirth than finishing a high school education
- Less than 4 percent of the population can read
Despite such enormous challenges, the Southern Sudanese are people with a strong will and desire to improve themselves. They are proud, motivated people — survivors who retain their dignity despite losing 2 million people in wars, and living in one of the least developed, most challenging places on Earth.
The Southern Sudanese need more from us than water. They need our political will and support.
In January 2011 the Southern Sudanese will vote to either remain part of Sudan or separate into a new country, per the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This referendum needs massive international support to succeed and keep the north and south from renewing civil war. There's much work to be done — negotiations over oil, borders, finances, and defense to name a few. And they are woefully behind schedule and ill-prepared for the challenges.
Write Your Senator or Representative
The U.S. needs to play a much more active role to ensure Southern Sudan remains at peace whatever the outcome of the referendum. Experts on U.S. policy on Sudan say one of the best ways to help is to write a letter — an actual, personalized letter — insisting that your representative or senator do something to make the United States take the lead in this critical period. The U.S. should implement a Sudan policy that develops real carrots and sticks, and deploys experienced diplomats to help lead negotiations to prevent a renewed North/South war and end the war in Darfur.
Click here to read more about the issues in an article by Alan Boswell for IRIN humanitarian news and analysis, a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Alan Boswell is an American freelance journalist currently based in Juba, Southern Sudan. He writes for Bloomberg, TIME, IRIN, and others.