Southern Sudan: 'We want our children's future to be different'

Women and men in Southern Sudan have enthusiastically registered to vote in a January referendum on whether their war-torn land will split off from the north of the country.

Citizens of Southern Sudan lined up to register to vote in the January 2011 referendum on secession from the north of the country.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/Response magazine

By Paul Jeffrey/Response magazine

Juba, Southern Sudan - Women and men in Southern Sudan have enthusiastically registered to vote in a January referendum on whether their war-torn land will split off from the north of the country.

A 17-day registration period began on Nov. 15. “We all registered early the very first day. We are excited to be able to vote to separate ourselves from the northern government, because for years and years it has oppressed the south,” said Cecilia Akuyu, a United Methodist Women member in Pisak.

The Rev. Isaac Sebit, a United Methodist pastor in nearby Yei, said people were enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in the referendum.  “We’ve lived with war for too long... it’s our destiny to be independent. God wants us to be free.”

The referendum on independence, scheduled for Jan. 9, was mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended nearly five decades of conflict—including two civil wars—between the north and south of Sudan. Yet implementing the peace deal hasn’t been easy, and many observers criticize the government in Khartoum for both dragging its feet on key provisions of the CPA while at the same time allegedly working to destabilize the south in the run-up to the vote.  In several villages around Yei, for example, residents have suffered from repeated attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Ugandan rebel group that has morphed into a transnational terror squad.

Registering to vote in Southern Sudan's referendum
Victoria John Toro holds her baby as dips her finger in ink to prevent fraud, the last step as she registered to vote in the upcoming referendum on secession from the north of the country.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/Response magazine

Given the fears that a peaceful referendum is unlikely here, Christian leaders inaugurated in September the campaign of “101 days of prayer for a peaceful referendum in Southern Sudan.” A joint effort of churches in Southern Sudan and abroad, the ecumenical effort has brought together people around the world to pray that no matter the outcome of the vote, peace will prevail.

Rev. Sebit said that on November 13, two days before registration began, United Methodists in Yei participated in an ecumenical service in the Roman Catholic cathedral, joining people of other denominations in specifically praying that the registration would be successful and peaceful.

"We know that God hears our prayers, and we prayed that God will help us to be independent and live in peace,” he said. “We want our children’s future to be different than the painful past we have endured.”


Paul Jeffrey is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church and a senior correspondent of
response magazine.

Across southern and central Sudan, the goal of CWS-supported efforts is to strengthen ACT Alliance members and their partners to prepare for, respond to and manage emergency situations.  CWS-supported efforts include preparedness training for 180 staff of ACT Alliance members, pre-positioning of shelter and water purification supplies (enough to assist 5,000 households), and a plan to procure 5,000 emergency kits containing water purification tablets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, blankets, plastic mats, large and small cooking pots, plates and cups, jerry cans, kitchen supplies, wash basins, soap and machetes.

In the troubled region of Darfur, Sudan, the CWS-supported ACT humanitarian program, begun in 2004, remains one of the largest such programs in South and West Darfur, assisting some 350,000 people.  The cornerstone of the CWS-supported program in Darfur remains the delivery of life-saving services to displaced families and to the communities hosting them.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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