By Madeline Labriola, Head Delegate
Pax Christi NGO delegation to the UN

Darfur demonstrationThe message was loud and clear “The situation in Sudan is critical”! On October 14, 2010 the Sudan Ecumenical Church Leader’s Delegation, sponsored by Religions for Peace, World Council of Churches and Caritas International meet with the NGO community at the United Nations to give a first hand account of the serious situation in the Sudan.

On January 9, 2011 the country will hold a referendum, which was an important and crucial part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. This referendum will determine if North and South Sudan will become separate countries. It is more than likely that the South will vote for separation.

Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop Episcopal Church of Sudan and Bishop of Juba said he was “afraid that Sudan is slipping back to war.” The members of the delegation expressed several concerns and warned of a “blood bath” worse than the civil war, which claimed millions of lives and left many innocent people in poverty and despair.

The Delegation was in NY and had already been to Washington DC. They were calling on delegates, political activists, governments and civil society to get behind this issue and keep pressure on the world stage about the plight of the Sudanese people.

When questioned about the reason that the South will vote for succession the ministers answered that the South is vastly different in identity, culture and religion. The South feels that there has been no movement by the North to help them be recognized for their particular values and traditions. This has led the South to want independence from the North. Although at first the two parties had agreed that they needed to work for unity this has not happened. The international community is called upon to monitor the process so that self-determination can be a fair process.

There are many internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in the North who where supposed to return but have not. If violence breaks out the result could put the IDP’s in danger. They should also have the opportunity to vote in the referendum.

Bishop Daniel Adwork Kur, Auxillary Bishop of Khartoum explained that after 50 year of war Sudan will not accept unity because Sudan is multi cultural, multi religious and multi ethnic. The government of Khartum wants the country to be Muslim and ignores the equality respect, and dignity of others.

John Ashworth, Sudan Advisor for Catholic Relief Services and the Sudan Ecumenical Forum said that in order for the referendum to be credible at least 60% of those registered must vote. If there is no security than people will not vote and the South will not accept the results. The border area is an extremely vulnerable spaee and there must be high security for the people to feel safe. A buffer zone must be set up by the UN Security Council.

The Churches in the area are very important as they provide education, organizing voter registration and helping people understand the significance of their vote.

United States, Britain, Norway formed a troika that now includes Italy to help mobilize others on this issue. In the last six months there has been a stronger presence with a special envoy to Sudan. The United States has provided strong leadership and has been fully engaged in the process. The world community expects the Sudanese to seriously take up these issues and to assure that the right of “self-determination “ is honored.

Kenya is also playing a major role in these negotiations. Whatever happens in Sudan will effect the entire region. The Arab League has stated that they will respect the decision set out in the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was accepted and signed by the NPT party of the North and the SLM the Southern party.

To prevent conflict the international community must work NOW!

Monitoring: International monitoring of both voter registration and the actually voting must begin as soon as possible.

Funding: The process must be funded by the Government of National Unity the international community and the South.

Security: United Nations peacekeepers and other forces must be present to provide the security for the people so that this can be considered a “real referendum”.

Engagement: Both parties must be engaged in the process and negotiations must be on going even after the vote. The oil in the South is processed in the North and the two sides must have mutual understanding and respect. Citizenship must be granted and recognized after succession.

As an international body the UN is responsible for everyone in the world. It is the duty of the members of the UN to assure that no one lifts up arms against another. No war can be won in South Sudan.

Both peace and self-determination are possible in the Sudan.

The U.S. is a key player in this arena. As members of Pax Christi we must support and encourage our government to keep the pressure on both sides to prevent a return to war. Take action to help make this happen: Please contact President Barack Obama,, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,…secretary. Tell them that you want them to push for the full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan.

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