Jubilation in southern Sudan as a vote for independence begins.
It’s easy to look beyond Africa’s news, but it is worthwhile to point to a good moment in the often troubled nation of Sudan.
The northern mostly Muslim part of the nation, which has been in power, and the southern mostly Christian (and animist) part of the country have been warring for decades. A few years ago the south was set up with a semi-autonomous government, with an uneasy truce between the north and south.
This week, southern Sudan is voting to determine if it will remain a part of the larger country, or become an independent state. Most believe it will become independent, and it appears the voting has been fair and the turnout strong.
This chance for independence for southern Sudan’s largely Christian population is a good thing. The oppressive Muslim government of Sudan is one of the most evil in the world, guilty of genocide throughout Sudan and for the bloodshed in Darfur. Sudan’s leader, Omar al-Bashir, is routinely ranked as the worst dictator in the world:
Since February 2003, Bashir’s campaign of ethnic and religious persecution has killed at least 180,000 civilians in Darfur in western Sudan and driven 2 million people from their homes. The good news is that Bashir’s army and the Janjaweed militia that he supports have all but stopped burning down villages in Darfur. The bad news is why they’ve stopped: There are few villages left to burn. The attacks now are aimed at refugee camps. While the media have called these actions “a humanitarian tragedy,” Bashir himself has escaped major condemnation. In 2005, Bashir signed a peace agreement with the largest rebel group in non-Islamic southern Sudan and allowed its leader, John Garang, to become the nation’s vice president. But Garang died in July 2006 in a helicopter crash, and Bashir’s troops still occupy the south.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his contributions to the tragedy in Darfur. The ICC charged him with “ murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing, and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property.” Bashir’s military campaign has been accused of driving 2.7 million people from their homes since 2003.