South Sudan Referendum Begins

Southern Sudanese began casting ballots in a historic referendum today to decide whether or not to split Africa’s largest country in two.

The referendum is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of bloody civil war between north and south Sudan that killed an estimated 2 million people.

Almost 4 million southern Sudanese, roughly half the south’s population of 8 million, have registered to vote in the referendum. Most analysts believe the south will vote to secede from the north and create a new independent nation. Thanks to a whole lot of people who care, some nifty technology, and the free access to that technology I have, I’m watching from afar. Watching through people like multimedia journalist Jonathan Shuler who had some of his work shared on the UN Dispatch website today.

If you’ve not read about this event and are unclear as to what the big deal is, may I suggest that it’s time?

This largest country in Africa lost 1.5 million people in two round of civil war and an ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven millions of people from their homes and killed another 200,000.

This death toll is equal to the number of Cambodian lives lost in the 1975-79 genocide or (here’s a stark contrast) the number of people who purchased the iPhone G4 in the first three days it was on the market.

The issues are complex. Politics…economics…religion…multiple language communities and cultures sharing space. History burdens Sudanese with more baggage than most of us could survive. Some have not–but many are.

The men and women in southern Sudan who are pouring themselves heart and soul into making their world a better place are heroic. As I pray for peace and long for their freedom, I celebrate the freedom many already have because the see beyond and share their hope generously.

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