By James Monyluak Majok
With seven months left for referendum exercise to take place on January 9, 2011, Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation will not be possible due to time factor. With due respect, Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation in referendum exercise was needed and still needed by Southern Sudanese living in Diaspora. They are confident that if participated, their votes could count and their voices could make big different.
The indubitable fact right now is that the time is against us. In other words, there is no time left for identification, registration, and issuance of Sudanese identifications to Southern Sudanese in Diaspora to cast their votes on January 9, 2011 in their respective locations around the globe.
According to Southern Sudan Referendum Act 2009, “Other Locations” in Chapter one, Section 2, means any referendum centres established by the Commission, out of necessity, outside Southern Sudan in areas densely populated by Southern Sudanese citizens, namely Northern Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, Britain, United States of America, Canada, and Egypt.
In addition to this, “Referendum Centre” in Chapter One, Section 2, means any referendum centres established by the Commission to carry out processes of registration, polling, votes counting and sorting and announcement of results.
Given these facts above, “other locations” and “referendum centres” and especially the “Other Locations,” nothing tangible has been done by the GOSS in establishing referendum centres overseas to oversee the processes leading to the conduct of referendum exercise on January 9, 2011.
To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done in the preparations for the referendum exercise in countries like Australia, Britain, United States of America and Canada. I personally don’t know whether preparations have been made or not in other locations such as Northern Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Egypt where Southern Sudanese are living and expected to participate in the referendum exercise in 2011.
Interestingly enough, President Kiir on his official visit to United States in January 2009, said this when asked by Sudanese intellectuals in the meeting of how Southern Sudanese will participate in the referendum exercise: “Those who are interested to participate in referendum exercise should go home in order to cast their votes on January 9, 2011 (Jan. 5, 2009).”
This was a clear message that Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation in referendum exercise was not always going to be easy task. This is when I personally become convince that no matter how critically we are determined here in Diaspora to become involved in the process, our government back in the South faces some difficulties in getting Southern Sudanese Diaspora cast their votes in their respective countries in 2011 referendum exercise.
These difficulties include formation of the Commission and Sub-committees, logistical means, technical arrangements, and the creditability issue of the processes. These difficulties have put our government (GOSS) in dilemma of what to do given the pressure from Southern Sudanese both at home and overseas. A very small fraction of Southern Sudanese understand these realities and the majority seem not to have understood these complications at hand.
What is needed then is honesty from our government that it needs to tell its citizens outside the country that they are faced with these difficulties. That it would not be possible for the Southern Sudanese in Diaspora to participate in the referendum exercise.
The very living example of why it would not be possible for Southern Sudanese Diaspora to participate in referendum exercise on January 9, 2011 is because of last April general elections in which some countries were identified by the National Elections Commission (NEC) deemed to be eligible to vote in the general elections in their respective locations. Registrations were conducted in some locations lately and eventually, Sudanese in Diaspora could not vote for one reason or another. Technical arrangements could not take place on time and some locations were not even consulted at all.
A successful participation depends on the cooperation of the host countries in which Southern Sudanese are living. In this case, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, Britain, United States of America, Canada, and Egypt need serious political approach to win their hearts and minds and gain their political approval to allow Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation in referendum exercise.
Therefore, GOSS leadership under SPLM party need to take the lead in doing this if Southern Sudanese participation from Diaspora is still needed at this juncture.
Other governments have done so in getting their citizens cast their votes when elections were held in countries of their origins. Iraq and Iran have done so, but their situations differ from our situation because our Northern brothers in Sudan are not interested in letting Southern Sudanese Diaspora participate in this upcoming crucial referendum exercise.
Now there is an alarm or worries of whether the referendum exercise will go ahead or be conducted on time or not as scheduled in the CPA and as required by the National Interim Constitution. This is because of the delay of formation of the referendum Commission and Sub-committees to carry out the duties of the referendum exercise arrangements.
In case of impossibility of Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation:
A) GOSS must not hesitates to publicly tell its citizens overseas that it will not be possible to participate in referendum exercise due to A B C D, etc;
B) GOSS must bring back home our IDPs from Northern Sudan;
C) GOSS must works with UN agencies to repatriate Southern Sudanese refugees back to Southern Sudan from neighbouring countries;
D) That Southern Sudanese in Western countries (Australia, Britain, United States of America, and Canada) be encouraged to go back to Southern Sudan to cast their votes comes January 2011.
In case of possibility of Southern Sudanese Diaspora participation:
A) GOSS must step up pressure on NCP ruling party to form referendum Commission;
B) GOSS must create clear channels of getting Diaspora communities in the registration processes and issuance of the Sudanese identifications as soon as possible;
C) GOSS must convince and works in collaboration with Western governments to make this process a reality;
D) SPLM party must be practical rather than being always critical when it comes to issues like these ones...
James Monyluak Majok is a concerned Sudanese living in the City of Windsor, Canada reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.