North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sudan's Referendum looms

Sudan today - as large as the United States east of the Mississippi.

The largest country in Africa - Sudan - is soon to hold a momentous election that will determine whether a large portion of the south of the country will split from the north and form a new nation. Today, voter registration for the January 9, 2011 vote ended, and Southerners are widely expected to choose to form a new country, having fought two civil wars with the north over the past several decades.

The north part of the country, governed from the capital city, Khartoum, is Islamic, and its President, Omar al-Bashir, has been charged with war crimes over the conflict in Darfur, becoming the first sitting head of state issued with an arrest warrant by the international criminal court (ICC). Bashir, who is 65 and has held power for 20 years, is held largely responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur.

Current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, also indicted for war crimes

After the uprising in February 2003 by mainly non-Arab rebels who complained of marginalization and neglect, his government armed, trained and financed bands of Arab nomads to attack villages across Darfur, killing, raping and looting as they went. The army provided air and ground support. His strategy caused 35,000 violent deaths, and several groups believe Bashir wanted to eliminate the Fur, Marsalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, whom he believed supported the rebels.

When the 20 year old civil war was negotiated to an end in 2005 through the Naivasha Agreement (conducted in Kenya) between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), a referendum on a possible split was agreed to as part of the terms.

Southern Sudan lost its long time and popular General/leader John Garang soon after the 2005 peace accord in a helicopter crash, and since then Salva Kiir Mayardit has filled the role of President of the autonomous region of South Sudan. Like John Garang, he is from the Dinka tribe, and is popular among both the military wing of the SPLM for his battlefield victories and the populace for his unambiguous pro-secession stance.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit

Along with the North South referendum, a small oil rich district called Abyei, situated near the border of North and South Sudan, is supposed to hold its own referendum on the same day. There, voters will be asked to decide whether to retain Abyei’s special administrative status in the north or become part of Southern Sudan, irrespective of the outcome of the south’s own referendum on secession. The result of the referendum will be determined by a simple majority of votes cast.
Arab and Islamic influence in North Sudan (Orange); Darfur (green) in the throes of violence is part of the north, as is the Eastern Front (purple)which had its own conflict with the Khartoum government; South Sudan which could become the world's newest nation (blue), and the strategic district of Abyei (red), which will also vote January 9 to either stay with the north, or secede with the South. Two sparsely populated regions (pink), Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile have been left somewhat in limbo, merely called upon to hold "popular consultations" in 2011.

Due to a breakdown in North-South negotiations over logistics in Abyei, Abyei’s referendum may not happen on time. Many observers are watching closely to see whether Abyei will resolve its problems peacefully or, in the worst case scenario, become ground zero for a new Sudanese civil war.

Southern Sudanese are black, tall, and proud, varying from Christian to traditional in their worship.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

gorgeous final picture.

The map is extremely helpful. Thanks.