Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Blog

Sunday marked the first day of a week-long vote in southern Sudan which will determine whether Africa’s largest country will remain unified under the government in Khartoum, or whether it will split into two independent states: north and south. Two days in, and over half the population of southern Sudan have already cast their ballots, including many Sudanese citizens living here in the US. Indeed, more than 8,700 Sudanese expatriates have already turned out across the U.S. in several states including, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, Massachusetts, Washington, Texas and Nebraska to vote in cities where polling stations were set up. 

According to international observers (from the UN, US, China…etc.), the election in Sudan itself has gone relatively well thus far, despite some tragic clashes that left 30 people dead. Whatever results from the election, it is clear that the situation in Sudan will continue to be delicate, as the country will likely remain vulnerable for the potential of falling back into civil war.

The international community, for the most part, seems poised to accept the legitimacy of the referendum’s outcome, which at this stage seems to be pointing towards an independent south. Khartoum-based President Omar al-Bashir, citing the supremacy of the principle of self-determination, has also recently indicated that he will accept southern independence should it be chosen by the voters. He did, however warn that an independent southern Sudan would face instability in the near fututre.

Observers also note another possible implication of the vote relating to Sudan as a member state of the Arab League. Given the ethnic dynamic of the conflict between north and south, it is questionable whether an independent south would remain part of the Arab League. It is uncertain what long term implications this will have on regional politics, but it certainly is an unusual political development for a member of the Arab League -- one worth keeping a close eye on.