Sudan’s President Bashir, through an aide, has acknowledged that South Sudan is expected to vote to secede from the country in a referendum scheduled for January 9, and says that he is prepared to accept this peacefully.
To the people of South Sudan (2 million of whom were killed in a rebellion against Khartoum’s forcible imposition of Islamic law, and another 4 million of whom were driven from their homes), this is comparable to hearing the announcement of the end to World War II.
If this is indeed true, we should all take time to savor and celebrate this victory for freedom and human rights before we start worrying about the day after — when tribal warfare, which has been habitually stoked in recent years by Bashir’s government, may break out, and the reality that the severely underdeveloped and war-devastated south must stand on its own sets in (see here for details).
That South Sudan is the site of 80 percent of the nation’s oil reserves makes the possibility of a peaceful secession all the more astonishing. It was the Bush administration that adopted the strategy of ending the North-South conflict through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, and it is the Obama administration that seems now to have successfully brought it to culmination. While still holding my breath, I’m daring to think that foreign-policy miracles may still happen.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Religious Freedom.