The overview of the Southern Sudan Referendum is a good introduction from CBC.
Beginning Sunday, Jan. 9, the people of Southern Sudan will vote in a referendum on independence. The referendum is part of the 2005 peace agreement between the government of Sudan and southern rebels that ended a civil war that began in 1983.
Voters in the Southern Sudan referendum will mark a ballot with their thumbprint underneath one of two symbols. (Government of Southern Sudan)
There are two symbols on the referendum ballot — one hand up for “separation” and two clenched hands clenched for “unity.” The voters are expected to choose separation, an option the government says it will accept.
The independent Southern Sudan Referendum Commission is conducting the referendum. Besides Sudan, registered voters can take part in Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, Britain and the United States. Calgary and Toronto are the Canadian cities where voting takes place.
Voting continues until Jan. 15.
A separate referendum was also supposed to be held in the oil-rich region of Abyei, which lies between Southern Sudan and northern Sudan. It has been postponed because of instability in the region. The vote in Abyei is on which part of Sudan to join if Southern Sudan votes for independence.
Sudan was a collection of independent kingdoms and principalities until 1820, when Egypt conquered the region and united the disparate territories. Egypt held the area until a revolt in 1885. A religious leader, Muhammad ibn Abdalla, led his followers in a nationalist uprising. His people, called the Mahdi (“expected ones”) ruled until 1898 when a joint British/Egyptian force overwhelmed the Mahdists.
Sudan Quick Facts
President: Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Population: 41.4 million (2008) (Southern Sudan: 7.5 – 9.7 million – UN Population Fund 2006 estimate)
Official language: Arabic (mother tongue of half the population)
Major religions: Sunni Muslim in the north (70 percent of Sudan’s total population), indigenous beliefs, mostly Christian in the south and Khartoum
Location: bordered by the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya and Uganda
Area total: 2.5 million sq. km (the largest country in Africa) (Southern Sudan area: 640,000 sq. km)
Life expectancy: 58 years
Resources: petroleum, copper, zinc, tungsten, silver, gold, cotton, peanuts, millet, wheat, sugar cane, cassava, mangos, bananas, papaya, sweet potatoes, sesame, sheep
Industries: textiles, cement, sugar, shoes, pharmaceuticals, light-truck assembly
Trading partners: China, Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, Germany, Indonesia, Australia
Sudan was under British/Egyptian administration until 1953, when Britain and Egypt agreed to provide for Sudanese self-government. Sudan became independent on Jan. 1, 1956. The country was never to experience long-term peace. The government in the capital of Khartoum was Arab-led and reneged on promises to southerners, leading to a mutiny by southern army officers. This triggered a 17-year civil war from 1955 to 1972. The war restarted in 1983.
Here is a timeline of events from Sudan’s independence:
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Abboud overthrows the government of Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari in a bloodless coup.
A wave of riots against the authoritarian rule of Abboud forces the military to relinquish power. Parliamentary elections are held in April 1965.
A coalition government is formed between the Umma and National Unionist Parties under Prime Minister Muhammad Ahmad Mahjoub. The government is unable to unite the country as it falls into factional fighting, economic stagnation and ethnic skirmishes.
May 25, 1969
A second military coup is staged by Col. Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiri, who becomes the country’s new leader. He abolishes parliament and outlaws all political parties. He installs himself as president. Nimeiri briefly loses power in July 1971 to the Communist Party, but his rule is restored within days.
The Addis Ababa agreement leads to a 10-year hiatus in the north-south civil war.
President Nimeiri institutes traditional Islamic Shariah law. He also declares a state of emergency to make sure Shariah is applied widely. Emergency courts are established. Punishments ranging from amputations for theft to public lashings for alcohol possession become commonplace.
In the south, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), with a political wing, the SPLM, is formed under leader John Garang. Nimeiri’s actions spur the SPLA to restart the civil war.
Nimeiri announces the end of the state of emergency. He dismantles the emergency courts and institutes a new judiciary act that continues the practice of Shariah law.
Sadiq al-Mahdi was prime minister of Sudan from 1986 until a military coup in 1989. The current president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir led the coup. (Reuters)
Senior military officers mount a coup and suspend the constitution. Gen. Abdel-Rahman Swar ad-Dahab becomes Sudan’s new leader.
Sudan holds its first free elections in 18 years. A new coalition government is led by Sadiq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party as prime minister. Over the next few years, the coalition dissolves and reforms several times, but always with the Umma Party in charge. The civil war continues.
The U.S. launches a cruise-missile strike against a pharmaceutical complex in Khartoum.
June 30, 1989
Then-General Omar al-Bashir announces he will lead a new 21- man cabinet, Khartoum, July 9, 1989. Al-Bashir had just become military ruler after leading a coup. (Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters)
Brig. (later Lt-Gen.) Omar al-Bashir leads military officers in a bloodless coup. The move is supported by the National Islamic Front party. The officers install a Revolutionary Command Council. Al-Bashir becomes president and chief of the armed forces. Fighting between the SPLM and government forces resumes in October.
The government announces a new penal code with harsh punishments, based on Shariah law.
Al-Bashir appoints all 300 members of a new transitional National Assembly.
After 10 years, the ongoing civil war has claimed 600,000 lives and displaced millions.
A Sudanese mother tries to feed her severely malnourished child at a feeding centre in Ayod March 31, 1993. Thousands of Sudanese fled the civil war to Ayod. (Corinne Dufka/Reuters)
Two principal rival factions of the SPLA agree on a ceasefire.
The government announces a unilateral ceasefire. Then the main SPLA faction responds with its own ceasefire.
The SPLA unites, with the opposition in the north united with parties from the south to create the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Umma Party is part of the NDA. The SPLA and partners start an insurgency in the eastern Sudan and northern Blue Nile areas.
The government signs a series of agreements with rebel factions, except the SPLA. Many rebel leaders become part of the government.
The government and the SPLM reach a historic agreement on the roles of the state and religion and the right of Southern Sudan to self-determination. It’s called the Machakos Protocol, after the town in Kenya where peace talks were held. Both sides sign an understanding for a cessation of hostilities. Discussions continue in 2004 over wealth-sharing and some contested areas.
Women sit under the shade of a large tree on a dry riverbed at a makeshift camp for internally displaced people near Seleah village in Sudan’s West Darfur province in 2004. At the time, the camp was home to thousands of Sudanese who fled their towns and villages. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)
Another rebellion starts up in the Darfur region in western Sudan. Residents are mostly black and accuse the government of ignoring the development of the region. Government installations are attacked. Soon, the Janjaweed militias, with air support from the Sudanese government, start attacking villages. Over the next eight years the Darfur conflict would claim 300,000 lives and drive 2.7 million people from their homes. For subsequent events in Darfur see CBC’s “The crisis in Darfur, a timeline.”
SPLA leader John Garang, right, flanked by his deputy Commander Salva Kiir Majardit, answers a question during an SPLA press conference in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Jan. 8, 2005. The next day Garang signed the comprehensive peace agreement that ended 21 years of civil war. Garang died in a helicopter crash in July 2005. Kiir is now president of Southern Sudan. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)
The government and southern rebels sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, providing for a degree of power-sharing between north and south; limited autonomy for the South for six years then a referendum on independence; equitable distribution of profits from oil fields in the south. About two million people died in the war.
Rebel leader John Garang becomes first vice-president of Sudan but is killed in a helicopter crash three weeks later.
Autonomous government formed in Southern Sudan.
Sudan is declared the world’s most vulnerable state on a ranking produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Washington-based Fund for Peace think-tank.
Nuala Lawlor, the acting chargé d’affaires for Canada in Sudan, and her European Union counterpart are expelled from Sudan. No reason is given, though Sudan’s official news agency reported that government officials believed Lawlor had been meddling in Sudan’s internal affairs. One week later, Canada expels a Sudanese diplomat as a response to Lawlor’s expulsion.
Arab militias and southern Sudanese forces clash in Abyei in the Spring. Al-Bashir and Southern Sudan leader Salva Kiir agree to international arbitration.
March 4, 2009
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir reacts during a meeting with a UN official in Khartoum, April 20, 2010. The week before Al-Bashir won the first contested presidential since 1986 after opposition boycotts left little opposition. (Mohamed Nureldin/Reuters)
President al-Bashir is indicted on charges by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The charges had been filed by the ICC prosecutor in July 2008, alleging he orchestrated the violence that has devastated Darfur and left hundreds of thousands dead. Al-Bashir becomes the first sitting head of state to be charged by the ICC.
Agreement reached on the terms for an independence referendum in Southern Sudan.
Al-Bashir wins Sudan’s first contested presidential election since 1986.
Jan. 9-15, 2011
Voting takes place in the Southern Sudan independence referendum.