Peter Martell/AFP/Getty Images
Southern Sudanese rally on the streets of the southern capital Juba on December 9, 2010, marking the one month countdown until a landmark independence referendum is due, which could see Sudan's autonomous and mostly Christian south break away from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north.
On January 9th there will be a vote in an African country that will have ramifications across the continent and the entire globe. Sudan, a country that has fought two bloody civil wars over the course of almost 50 years and has another long-simmering battle raging in its Darfur province, could soon split into two different countries. Southern Sudan, the Christian half of the country that has fought the North almost since Sudan itself gained independence in 1956, will hold a referendum next month on its own independence that could touch off a new war, a wave of similar secession movements in other African countries or a continent-wide ethnic/religious battle; there’s also a distinct possibility that the referendum won’t happen, if the North feels that the Southern Sudanese are serious about being independent, taking with them several lucrative oil fields. At the heart of the matter is the split between the North’s Arab, Muslim-leaning population and the South’s African Christian people. Patt gives a primer on an election that could go down in history as far more important than what happened in the U.S. in November.
Lako Tongun, professor of international & intercultural studies and political studies at Pitzer College