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A People Yearning for FreedomFaith McDonnellDecember 2, 2010
In less than forty days, the people of South Sudan will participate in a historic vote. On January 9, 2011, all of those South Sudanese who have registered (the registration process is going on right now), will decide the fate of South Sudan. Will it remain a part of Sudan? Or will it become a new, independent, free nation? It is widely understood, barring any egregious voter fraud, Southerners will vote to secede.
There is definitely the threat of voter fraud and intimidation from the National Congress Party (NCP) Islamic regime in Khartoum. In addition, the northern government is planting doubts in the minds of the leaders of other nations about the wisdom of “allowing” South Sudan to secede. There should be no talk of “allowing” South Sudan to secede. The South has a legal right to a Referendum on Secession, and Khartoum has a legal responsibility to respect its outcome. This was guaranteed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the NCP and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), representing the South, in 2005.
Southern Sudanese like Simon Deng, about whom I have written in past e-newsletters; Sudanese Church leaders; and American activists for Sudan all warn that the U.S. government must demand accountability from Khartoum. Last week Simon completed his barefoot walk to the office of every member of the United States Congress, all 535 senators and representatives. I accompanied Simon to some of those offices, along with some other stalwart Sudan advocates. The United States played a key role in the peace agreement. It must now complete the task of bringing peace, freedom, and democracy to all of the Sudanese people groups that have been marginalized and oppressed by the NCP. One congressman, U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) pledged to us his strong support for South Sudan.
At the same time that there is justifiable concern about Khartoum’s response to Southern secession, there is optimism and anticipation of the new, free nation. At a recent event on the future of South Sudan, Ambassador Andrew Natsios, former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, voiced his convictions that South Sudan would indeed be a strong and prosperous nation, and a strategic ally of all those who believe in freedom and secular democracy. Natsios offered several suggestions on how the United States can support and strengthen South Sudan:
· The U.S. should have a free trade agreement with South Sudan
· Make clear by statute that all sanctions are rescinded in the South and encourage American businesses to partner in the South
· Build a large U.S. embassy in South Sudan to symbolize permanent economic, military, and diplomatic alliance with South Sudan
· Expand the military assistance program to the South, so that the balance of power between Sudan and South Sudan is changed, and provide an air defense system to prevent the kind of aerial bombardment by Khartoum that took place during the war
· Continue aid and development efforts as needed to bolster particularly the rural areas of South Sudan. Assist in the development of the court system and the rule of law.
Southern Sudanese are also excited about the prospect of their new nation. Many of the Southern Sudanese in the United States have driven for hours and days to register to vote in the referendum. When I visited the Washington, DC area referendum registration center last week, a car load of folks from Burlington, Vermont had just arrived to register. The only registration centers in the U.S. were in Washington, DC, Phoenix, and Omaha! Thankfully, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission is opening five new centers on December 6. They will be in Boston, Nashville, Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle. I asked a couple of young men, Peter and Bona, who had driven over from Baltimore to explain what the referendum meant to them. They shared their excitement about the prospect of freedom – not just for themselves, but for the generations to come in South Sudan. As Bona put it, if South Sudan is free, “a ten year-old kid won’t have to carry an AK47.”
Another young Southern Sudanese man, Nyuol Lueth Tong, a student at Duke University, inspired by the founding of America, wrote a “Declaration of Separation” to express his yearning for his country to be free. His essay concludes:
We, the people of South Sudan, for the preservation of human life, liberty, and dignity, now and for the posterity, do declare our separation from the Sudan and hereby establish the Republic of South Sudan in which these inalienable rights are the foundation and are perpetually protected and promoted. Let it be known worldwide that a republic of liberty and equality is born in the continent of Africa. Let it be known that this republic stands for freedom and stands against tyranny, domestic or foreign. Let it be known that our nation is born!
In the second chapter of the book of Joel, God says, “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Will you please pray with me that the yearned-for freedom will come to the people of South Sudan? That the prophecy in Joel 2 will be fleshed out by the birth of a new, free South Sudan? The Church in a free, un-persecuted Sudan will be mighty force for the Kingdom of God all over Africa and the world.
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