Last week, the Southern Sudan leader, Salva Kiir, made his strongest statement, urging the people of South Sudan that, come the time of the referendum in 2011, they should choose ‘independence’. He warned that a failure to secede would turn southerners into ‘second class citizens.’
However, there have been a number of events that tell a slightly different story.
Before the referendum in 2011, there will be national presidential elections in April 2010. And if reports are to be believed, the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) could actually, if organized, win these elections.
According to Sudan analyst Mr Alex de Waal, working in New York with the Social Science Research Council, points out that in a popular vote the SPLM would defeat the unpopular National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party.
But is the SPLM keen on pursuing this course or are they only consumed by the promise that secession holds?
The SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje, affirms that his party wants to take advantage of the elections and set up nationwide structures and thus establish itself as a credible national party.
It is believed that these elections will be difficult for a single party to win.Therefore, alliances must be forged.
SPLM’s alliance options are: The National Congress Party; which is in desperately in need of a partner in order to survive. The northern opposition, which already have links with or the non-Arab groups in Darfur and the east.
I urge the SPLM to do everything possible to forge strong alliances and take power in Sudan and take the country towards another direction. I say this because the people of Sudan seem ready for unity and change.
According to a Khartoum resident, the racial and religious differences would not be a factor in his vote as they consider everyone to be Sudanese.
Now this is good news to the world for it shows that despite the huge differences, the Sudanese are a people who can be reconciled.
The man however insists that even if a southerner did become national president, the referendum would still need to be held.
I totally agree with him. It is only the Southerners who know how bad they want independence. They are the ones who know what it means to go through the longest civil war in the world and to have 1.5 million of their people killed. They therefore must decide whether their differences with the North can be mended.
Unfortunately, recently there have been clashes in the Nasir area in the South which have heightened tensions between the North and the South once again.
Southern politicians are claiming that Khartoum has a hand in this as they want to scatter the possibility of an independence vote.
They claim Khartoum wants to seize control of southern oil fields that lie along their shared border and that they are using proxy militia it once supported in the civil war.
I firmly believe that the South and the North can sit down and iron out these issues as this is both in their interest.
A unified Sudan is good for this region. My advice to the People of South Sudan is not to decide too quickly on the issue of secession. The alternative is not so bad.
The author is a journalist with The New Times