The Referendum in Sudan


James JenningsKHARTOUM, Sudan — Just days before the historic referendum on southern independence Khartoum is experiencing temperate weather and what may turn out to be a deceptive calm. In fact, everybody is either worried or excited, depending on their circumstances. Southerners are resolute that they will not accept second class citizenship in their own country, otherwise, what was the long and horrific civil war fought for? Most, but not all of the people in the north feel that a part of their patrimony is being ripped away, and refuse to yield on the dominant theme of an Islamic Arab identity, otherwise, what was the 22-year long war fought for? Yet if the referendum goes as expected, a de facto state will become a de jure nation on July 9. The unknown factor, beyond all the high councils of government and international organizations with their high-sounding treaties written on paper, is what the masses of ordinary people will do. When the south becomes truly independent, there are troubling possibilities other than war. One is that the human dynamic will transcend the political, resulting in waves of displaced people and perhaps a new humanitarian emergency in the south.

James E. Jennings is president of Conscience International. His email is