In January 2011, Southern Sudanese will vote to remain part of Sudan or form a new country. This referendum is a cornerstone of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which brought a halt to the civil war between the northern Khartoum government and the southern Sudanese. The CPA created the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and brought a tenuous peace to the war-torn country. Since then, Water for Sudan, led by Salva Dut, has been drilling water wells in Southern Sudan's remote villages during the annual dry season from December to April.
This year, Salva is again back in Southern Sudan preparing for the upcoming drilling season with team leader Ater. The WFS teams are hopeful they'll be able to drill during the dry season. However, they are planning for any contingency, with crew safety and equipment security the first priorities.
Not surprisingly, tensions are rising between the northern government and GOSS as the January vote nears and voter registration has begun in the south. Among the issues are oil revenue-sharing; logistics of the actual voting such as who is eligible to vote; how the voting will be managed and validated; return of refugees and more. The international community including the UN, the African Union, and the US have been increasing their focus on helping both parties achieve a peaceful outcome to the expected vote for a new, autonomous country. (See a timeline on referendum, the potential cost of a return to war, and US Secretary of State Clinton's remarks on Sudan to the UN Security Council.)
American actor George Clooney has joined with The Enough Project's co-founder John Prendergast and other partners in a major campaign (Sudan Now, Sudan Peace Watch) to draw global public attention to the situation in Sudan with specific negotiating proposals for peace.
Despite the tensions, progress has been made in negotiations between the North and South. Continued attention by the international community and pressure from Sudan's neighbors such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt can help prevent what some experts have said would be a catastrophic return to war — catastrophic for the people of Sudan and the entire region surrounding Africa's largest geographical state.
Water for Sudan and its supporters are actively supporting peace efforts. You can join that effort by contacting The White House, your government representatives, and the UN. Urge them to increase efforts to avoid another genocidal war in Sudan.