June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in ICC (3)


100+ International NGO's and Human Rights Groups Ask US to Intervene in Escalating DRC Crisis (NEWS) 

(Video: Human Rights Watch)

(HN, 5/4/12) -- Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, and dissident groups thought to be led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda; following a contested election in December which resulted in President Joseph Kabila's re-election.  Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Center, questioned the credibility of vote.

Ntaganda recently  lead a mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to authorities; and Ntaganda was previously wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for recruiting and using child soldiers in northeastern Congo. But since his arrest warrant was unsealed in 2008, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army and by many accounts has continued to recruit children to fight, playing a role in ethnic massacres, killings, rape and torture - as he did during DR Congo's bloody five-year war.

(PHOTO: DRC President Joseph Kabila/ElMundo)In early April, President Joseph Kabila also called for his arrest, following the defections of up to 500 Congolese troops. Some 20,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, with about 5,000 crossing over into Rwanda says UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

Known locally as the "Terminator", Ntaganda was thought to be in charge of a large contingent based in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma until last month.

The Letter:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

United States Department of State, 2201 C St, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We, the 142 undersigned Congolese and international civil society and human rights organizations, call on the government of the United States to provide urgent diplomatic leadership and support to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest Bosco Ntaganda.

Ntaganda's brutal human rights abuses over many years have affected tens of thousands of Congolese citizens in eastern Congo. His position as a high-ranking officer in the Congolese army, together with his ability to continue to perpetrate abuses is the most flagrant case of Congo's destructive culture of impunity.

As you will know, Ntaganda is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in 2002-2003 in Ituri district, northeastern Congo.

Despite the warrant, and the Congolese government's legal obligation to execute it as a state party to the ICC, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in 2009 and continues to be implicated in other grave violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Until a few weeks ago, he lived openly in Goma, eastern Congo, without fear of arrest. He was considered by the Congolese government as necessary for the peace process.

Ntaganda's avoidance of arrest is emblematic of continued lawlessness in eastern Congo. The people of eastern Congo have long stood against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Their desire for justice burns strong, especially in the face of ongoing atrocities. Congolese and international human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced Ntaganda's promotion to general, his ongoing crimes, and the failure to arrest him. Congolese human rights activists have done so at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

We have new hope that justice might be done. In April, the situation changed dramatically when Ntaganda unsuccessfully sought to organize large-scale defections from the Congolese army. In the face of the crisis, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, at a public meeting in Goma, signaled a change in the government's stance toward Ntaganda.

He indicated he was considering arresting him and that indiscipline in the army would not be tolerated. Members of the international community, including the United States ambassador to Congo, as well as the Belgian foreign minister, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Congo and others, also publicly called for Ntaganda's arrest and his transfer to the ICC. These statements were very welcome.

(PHOTO: DRC child soldier/UNICEF)We now await concrete action to lawfully arrest Ntaganda in a manner that protects civilians from any potential fallout. Improved security for the population, based on the rule of law, begins with his arrest. It cannot wait any longer. Ntaganda remains at large, has recently separated from the army, and is reportedly at, or near, his ranch in Masisi territory, North Kivu, with a significant group of supporters. The failure to arrest Ntaganda is a source of anxiety and trauma for the population of eastern Congo who fear he could launch a new wave of violence and human rights abuses as he has done in the past. The recent violence in Masisi territory is a strong indication that this is already occurring and that Ntaganda is regrouping troops loyal to him. Lack of action to arrest Ntaganda could result in a further deterioration of the security situation and new attacks on civilians. This must be avoided.

On behalf of Congolese civil society and the thousands of victims of Ntaganda's crimes, we call on the government of the United States to:

:           Support the Congolese government to urgently plan and carry out a lawful arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, including providing support through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, so that he can be brought to justice.

:           Press the government of Rwanda, which has backed Ntaganda in the past, to support the lawful arrest of Ntaganda by the Congolese government and not provide him with sanctuary.

:           Prioritize comprehensive security sector reform in Congo that includes a vetting mechanism to remove senior officers with a record of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and bring them to justice.

On March 14, our fight against impunity was given an important boost when the judges at the ICC in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes committed in Congo. As Congolese human rights groups publicly said in the weeks that followed, it is now time for Lubanga's co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to also face justice.

We recognize the difficulties in bringing about the lawful arrest of Ntaganda, but we believe strongly that with the right political commitment they can be overcome. Please take all necessary and appropriate action to assist the Congolese government to make it happen.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

CC: Thomas E. Donilon, National Security Advisor

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations


International organizations

1. Amnesty International USA

2. Eastern Congo Initiative

3. The ENOUGH Project

4. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)

5. Human Rights Watch

6. Humanity United

7. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

8. Jewish World Watch

9. Open Society Foundations

10. Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project

Congolese organizations

1. Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégral et Intégré du Diocèse de Mbuji-Mayi (ACDIM), Kasai Oriental

2. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et le Développement (ACPD), North Kivu

3. Action Globale pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (AGPSP), North Kivu

4. Action Humanitaire pour le Développement Intégral (AHDI), North Kivu

5. Action Intégré pour le Développement de Ngandajika (AIDN), Kasai Oriental

6. Action Kivu, South Kivu

7. Action Paysanne contre la Faim (APCF), Kasai Oriental

8. Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), South Kivu

9. Action pour la Promotion de la Participation Citoyenne (APPC), North Kivu

10. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et du Développement Communautaire (APDHUD), South Kivu

11. Action pour le Développement Communautaire de Lusambo (ADCL), Kasai Oriental

12. Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), North Kivu

13. Actions des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT/NK), North Kivu

14. Actions pour la Promotion Socio-économique des Ménages (APROSEM), North Kivu

15. Africa Justice Peace and Development (AJPD), North Kivu

16. Aide Kivu, South Kivu

17. Amical des Anciens du Séminaire (AMAS), Kasai Oriental

18. Amis de Nelson Mandela, Kinshasa

19. Application des Droits Humains dans le Pays des Grands Lacs (ADHOPGL), North Kivu

20. Arche d'Alliance, North Kivu

21. Assistance Judiciaires aux Vulnérables (AJV), Equateur

22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), national

23. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), Katanga

24. Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), South Kivu

25. Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), North Kivu

26. Association des Volontaires pour le Développement Intégré du Kasaï (AVODIK), Kasai Oriental

27. Association pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (ADI), Orientale

28. Association pour le Développement de Kitamba-Mwenga (ADKI), South Kivu

29. Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP), North Kivu

30. Association pour les Nations Unies de la RDC (ANU/RDC), South Kivu

31. Association Régionale de Développement Rural Intégré (ARDERI), Kasai Oriental

32. Bénévolat pour l'Enfance (BENENFANCE), North Kivu

33. Blessed Aid, North Kivu

34. Bons Samaritains des Grands Lacs (BOSAM GL/DDH), North Kivu

35. Bureau de Développement Communautaire (BDC), Kasai Oriental

36. Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD), Kasai Oriental

37. Campagne pour la Paix (CPP), North Kivu

38. Carrefour pour la Justice, Développement et les Droits Humains (CJDH), North Kivu

39. Caucus des Femmes Congolaises du South Kivu pour la Paix, South Kivu

40. Centre d'Appui et de Réhabilitation des Infrastructures pour le Développement (CARID), Kasai Oriental

41. Centre de Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire (CDH), Katanga

42. Centre de Formation International en Droits Humains et Développement (CFIDH/D), North Kivu

43. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), North Kivu

44. Centre de Réhabilitation pour le Développement (CRDS), Kasai Oriental

45. Centre d'Etudes et de Formation Populaires pour les Droits de l'Homme (CEFOP/DH), Kasai Oriental

46. Centre Féminin pour la Formation et l'Information pour le Développement (CEFIDE), Kasai Oriental

47. Centre National d'Assistance aux Invalides du Congo (CNAICO), Kasai Oriental

48. Centre Olame, South Kivu

49. Civis Congo, North Kivu

50. Coalition Congolaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CN-CPI/RDC) , national

51. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), national

52. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI/RDC), national

53. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/NK (COJESKI/NK), North Kivu

54. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/SK (COJESKI/SK), South Kivu

55. Comité de Développement de Bilomba (CDB), Kasai Occidental

56. Comité de Suivi pour la Contribution des Communautés et des Églises à la Transformation Humaine (COSCET), Katanga

57. Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Kinshasa

58. Congo en Images (CIM), Orientale

59. Congo Peace Network (CPN), North Kivu

60. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD/KOR), Kasai Oriental

61. Construisons la Paix et le Développement Intégral (COPADI), North Kivu

62. Coordination de la Société Civile du Nord-Kivu

63. Dauphins Munzirwa-Kataliko, South Kivu

64. Défense et Assistance aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (DAFEVA), North Kivu

65. Département des Femmes et Familles (DFF), Kasai Oriental

66. Diaconie et Développement Communautaire Intégral (DIDECOM), Kasai Oriental

67. Ditekema Esperance (DIES), Kasai Oriental

68. Encadrement des Femmes Indigènes et des Ménages Vulnérables (EFIM), North Kivu

69. Entente pour le Développement Intégré de Ngandajika (EDIGA), Kasai Oriental

70. Fédération des ONG Laïques à Vacation Economique du Congo (FOLECO/KOR), Kasai Oriental

71. Femmes Juristes pour les Droits de la Femme et de l'Enfant de Butembo, North Kivu

72. Femmes Solidaires pour la Paix et le Développement (FSPD), Kinshasa

73. Fondation AGAPE, South Kivu

74. Fondation Diocésaine (FONDI), Kasai Oriental

75. Fondation Point de Vue des Jeunes Africains pour le Développement (FPJAD), North Kivu

76. Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaise (FFC), national

77. Foyer de Développement pour l'Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID/Hope Indigenous Peoples), North Kivu

78. Great Lakes Human Rights Program, North Kivu

79. Groupe d'Appui aux Exploitants des Ressources Naturelles (GAERN), Kasai Oriental

80. Groupe d'Assistance aux Marginalisés (GAM), South Kivu

81. Groupe d'Actions Non Violentes Évangéliques (GANVE), Katanga

82. Groupe des Associations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP), North Kivu

83. Groupe Justice et Libération, Orientale

84. Groupe Lotus, Orientale

85. Héritiers de la Justice, South Kivu

86. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), South Kivu

87. La Kasaïenne de l'Industrie (LKI), Kasai Oriental

88. Ligue des Jeunes des Grands Lacs (LJGL), North Kivu

89. Midimu ya Ba Mamu (MIDIBAM), Kasai Oriental

90. Mutuelle d'Assistance aux Déshérités du Nord-Kivu (MADNOKI), North Kivu

91. Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH), Kinshasa

92. Observatoire de la Parité, South Kivu

93. Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP), South Kivu

94. Organisation des Femmes et Enfants Déshérités (OFED), Kasai Occidental

95. Organisation pour la Défense des Droits des Communautés Locale et Peuples Autochtones (ODECOLA/N), national

96. Ouvriers du Monde (ODM), South Kivu

97. Parlement des Jeunes de la RDC (PJRDC), North Kivu

98. Programme d'Appui aux Initiatives des Femmes en Situation Difficile (PAFSID), Kasai Oriental

99. Projet de Développement Agricole et d'Appui aux Initiatives à la Base (PRODAIB), Kasai Oriental

100. Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), North Kivu

101. Réseau ARDA, North Kivu

102. Réseau des Associations Intégrées pour le Développement Communautaire et Droits Humains (Réseau AIDH/DH), North Kivu

103. Réseau d'Initiatives Locales pour un Développement Durable (REID), North Kivu

104. Réseau National des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC), national

105. Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice, national

106. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/NK), North Kivu

107. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/SK), South Kivu

108. Réveil des Femmes pour le Développement Intégré (RFEDI), North Kivu

109. Réveil du Paysan (RDP), Kasai Oriental

110. Save Act Mines DRC (SAM/DRC), North Kivu

111. Service For Peace (SFP), Bas-Congo

112. Société Civile Noyau de Kadutu, South Kivu

113. Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD), South Kivu

114. Solidarité Action Sociale (SAS), South Kivu

115. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l'Humanité (SVH), South Kivu

116. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI), national

117. Solidarité pour la Défense des droits de l'Homme (SDDH), Orientale

118. Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), North Kivu

119. SOS Africa, North Kivu

120. Strong Roots, South Kivu

121. Syndicat des Associations Féminines pour le Développement Intégral (SAFEDI), Kinshasa

122. Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS), North Kivu

123. Synergie Vie et Paix (SVP), North Kivu

124. Toges Noires, Kinshasa

125. Union des Comites pour le Développement (UCODE), North Kivu

126. Union des Femmes Musulmanes du Congo, North Kivu

127. Union des Jeunes Congolais pour le Changement (UJCC), South Kivu

128. Union pour le Développement Familial (UDF), Kasai Oriental

129. Unions d'Actions pour les Initiatives de Développement (UAID), North Kivu

130. Voie des Opprimés (VDO), Orientale

131. Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Kinshasa

132. Wamama Wa Jamaa, North Kivu



Two African Candidates Shortlisted For International Criminal Court (NEWS BRIEF)

Outgoing ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Credit: ICC(HN, October 25, 2011) - Two candidates from the African continent are among four shortlisted to head the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

The pair come from Tanzania and Gambia, and, along with a Briton and Canadian, have been shortlisted to replace the tough-talking ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, whose term ends next year.

They are: Mohamed Chande Othman, Tanzania’s Chief Justice and Fatou Bensouda of Gambia - currently the ICC's deputy prosecutor.

Also in he running are Andrew Cayley, a British national and the International Co-Prosecutor of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia. Rounding out the list is Robert Petit, a war crimes counsel in Canada's Department of Justice.

The four were short listed by the selection committee of the Assembly of States Parties, which oversees the court. The committee, which had been set up by the Assembly at its ninth session in December 2010, was composed of five members representing each of the regional groups,

The process comes at a time when an increasing number of the ICC's files originate from Africa - including Kenya, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

Bensouda was appointed the ICC's deputy prosecutor in September 2004 and previously worked as a legal adviser and trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, reported The Standard Newspaper of Kenya.

"She has long been regarded as the favourite to take over from Moreno-Ocampo, particularly at a time when the ICC's cases are largely focused on Africa," the paper said.

Othman was appointed Tanzania's chief justice in December 2010, after being elevated by President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete from judge in the High court of Tanzania and the court of appeal for seven years. He is a reputed human rights expert.

Canada's Petit also has impressive international credentials. From 2006 to 2009, he was the International Co-Prosecutor for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which is aiming to try Khmer Rouge leaders for violations of international criminal law in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. He has also served as a Legal Officer in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Regional Legal Advisor for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, a Prosecutor for the Serious Crimes Unit of the United Nations Mission of Support to East Timor, and a Senior Trial Attorney for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies


Southern Sudan 55-Year Quest for Freedom (Perspective)

By Hugo Odiogor

(HN, January 9, 2011) - A 55-year quest for freedom in southern Sudan makes a crucial home run today when over four million voters step out to cast their vote either to remain with their Arab and Muslim brothers or to become an independent state. The stakes are high for both sides and for Africa as a whole.Southern Sudan has considerable agricultural potential, but a lack of infrastructure - such as roads and storage facilities - and ongoing insecurity has limited production. CREDIT: Caroline Gluck, OXFAM

Sudanese President Omar Hassan El-Bashir pledged last week to abide by the result of today’s referendum, thereby dousing fears of a possible return to the trenches, in the event of southern voting to end its 113-year association with the Arab north.

El-Bashir, facing indictment in the International Court of Justice at The Hague, made what could be his last visit to the South as a united country last week and gave the world the assurance the north will not resort to violence to thwart the decision of the south. The vote is the result of a 2005 peace deal, which ended a 55-year conflict that has claimed the lives of two million people and left twice as many displaced.

El-Bashir held talks with southern Sudanese leader, Sylva Kiir, on issues bordering on citizenship rights, resource control, border demarcations, and the fate of the oil-rich Abyei, which is supposed to vote later on whether it should become part of the north or to join the south. Today’s referendum is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest-running civil war. In the north, the ruling National Congress Party, led by Omar El-Bashir, is campaigning for unity while  the former rebels under SPLM decided “to campaign for what the people want.”

Before the closure for registration last week, at least 3.4 million people in Sudan have registered to vote while Sudanese in Diaspora are also allowed to vote. Reports said aid agencies have been assisting to educate the illiterate rural population on how they will choose between two images on the ballot paper.

One of them is that of clasped hands symbolising “ unity.” The second symbol is a “single hand”, signalling separation from Khartoum. The vote for separation has united the diverse southern communities who are often divided along ethnic lines. There have been pro-separation rallies as the people look forward to end centuries of slavery and abuse at the hands of the Arabs in the north.

Sudan is located in the north-eastern part of Africa. It is the 10th largest country by land mass, combining the size of France, Britain, Germany and Belgium, put together. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central Africa Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. The River Nile, world’s longest river, divides the country on the east and west.

Khartoum is the political, cultural and commercial capital of the nation, while Omdurman remains the largest city. Its population of 42 million people, Arab and Nubian origins who are Sunnis and the Dinkas and other diverse groups in the South.

Islam is the official and largest religion, while Arabic and English are the official languages. The pro-Islamic policies of the government led to a second civil war in 1983,  followed by a bloodless coup d’etat in 1989. Under the dictatorial leadership of El-Bashir, Sudan has initiated a series of macroeconomic reforms which resulted in its economy being rated amongst the fastest growing in the world. Sudan is rich in natural resources including petroleum, with China and Japan as its main partners.

The British began the process of divide and rule in 1922, when the northerners were not allowed to travel over the 10th parallel south and southerners travel over the 8th north. This ensured that Muslims were stopped from spreading their faith southwards while the British supported the influx of Christian missionaries to the south. This was the basis for the dichotomy that existed till date.

The two cultures were never given a proper opportunity to interact, in the 55 years of the country’s independence. The north imposed its dominance by force and attempted to impose Sharia on southern Christians where illiteracy is almost 100 per cent; poverty is rife, healthcare is non-existent and starvation a frequent blight.

Flashpoints of conflict

Separatist movements in regions such as Darfur and the Nuba Mountains and  border areas are watching the development in the vote today; in the same way other African and Arab countries are watching the development in Sudan.

‘Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brought civil war to an end, two referenda were agreed: one for southern secession or unity and the other to give Abyei the opportunity to choose to be part of the north or the south.

Oil diplomacy

Sudan has achieved great economic growth by implementing macroeconomic reforms and finally ended the civil war by adopting a new constitution in 2005 with rebel groups in the south, granting them limited autonomy to be followed by a referendum about independence in 2011.

The discovery of oil in the southern part of Sudan has been one of the problems of the country. It produces 500,000 barrels every day. Eighty per cent of the oil is in the south, while the pipeline runs to the  north. It accounts for 70 per cent of government revenue and 93 per cent of its exports. South produces vast majority of oil, but north has means of processing.

El-Basir is proposing a wealth-sharing deal that splits oil profits 50-50 between north and south Sudan. The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), runs the largest oil-extraction operation in the country. China has been roundly condemned for closing its eyes to human rights violations in Sudan because of the oil diplomacy. Its company has been accused of false declaration of oil production figures which puts the south in disadvantage. In the five years of  peace, the north has shared $10 billion in oil revenue with south.

The suspicion that the north was hiding oil revenue almost derailed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, three years ago. Bashir’s National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army must negotiate a new oil revenue-sharing agreement, and a “credible, independent” company must conduct a detailed audit of the country’s oil industry and release its findings in full to the public.

Observers  believe that the ICC indictment of  El-Bashir has put him under tremendous pressure and he is not in the mood to fight any more, but the UN, and some anti-genocide groups have set up Satellite Sentinel Project, along the border areas to monitor movement of persons and troops.

The surveillance project is to prevent a new civil war in the event that the south votes for secession in the referendum. “We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes to know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” they said. “War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Today’s referendum is important for the people of Sudan and the world as it may see the birth of a new nation in Africa and the world.

This article originally appeared in the Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria