10 January 2011

South Sudan Holds Independence Vote

A vote is being held today to create a new country of South Sudan, a predominantly Christian/animist part of the the predominantly Arab Muslim nation of Sudan, that has endured a long insurgency that has killed two million people. About four million people are expected to vote and the outcome is almost certain to be a vote for independence, assuming the orderly voting allows the quorum for the election to be secured. I share the view of almost everyone in the West that this is a positive development compared to what came before it.

The new nation would be oil rich, but short of the educated people needed to give a nation real hope. I've read that 80% of its people are illiterate and that only 2% complete elementary school. I have little doubt that among women, the percentages are even lower. The new people share a larger "macro-culture" but are divided by local languages and tribal affiliations. All of the usual horrors of sub-Saharan Africa are present there enhanced by the additional burden of a long period of war. Mostly locals hope that a sovereign government's military and security resources may better protect them than the Sudanese government has in the past.

The ethnic divide between Muslims predominantly in the North, and Christian/animists predominantly in the South, is found across Africa at roughly the same latitude. This shouldn't be construed to mean that the Christians are the good guys and the Muslims are the bad guys, however. Uganda, adjacent to the new landlocked country and its principal connection to the outside world, for example, if famous for its virulent Christianity based anti-gay fervor and Christian based violent political movements. Rwanda and Burundi which are part of the same larger Christian/animist layer of sub-Saharan Africa are famous mostly for their repeated waves of genocidal slaughter in Hutu-Tutsi clashes. Over in Nigeria, religious compatriots still burn witches.

The area seeking independence does not include Darfur in West Central Sudan where genocidal killings have taken place with the approval of the government, although not always with its direct involvement. Indeed, to some extent, the removal of Darfur allies with South Sudan's independence from the political scene may undermine Darfur politically, although it may also provide a place of refuge for those fleeing the Darfur region.

Together with the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt by violent Muslim extremists, and the wholesale exile of a large share of the Iraqi Christian population in the Iraq War and subsequent political and religious violence, it also marks of trend in which there are fewer Christian presences and those that remain are threatened, in predominantly Muslim nations.

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