Next month the southern Sudan will vote for or against independence. The secession referendum is part of a cease-fire agreement brokered by the U.S. in 2005. The Sudan has experienced on-and-off civil war for decades, the country torn along ethnic and religious lines between the Arab/Muslin north and the Black African, non-Muslim south. The north has the majority of the population (22 million) along with most of the resources and urban areas. The south, with about 6 million people, relies on subsistence agriculture and has virtually no modern infrastructure in place, in part due to neglect by the north and in part die to the ongoing civil war. There are effectively no paved roads in the south, for example.
The civil war has caused over two million deaths to date. Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea have supported the southern secessionist forces and Sudan has in turn supported anti-government forces in those countries. Libya and Egypt support the notion of a unified Sudan, if not necessarily the draconian actions of the government to suppress the south. The highest-visibility region in the war has been Darfur, where suppression of the south has been widely labeled genocidal in scope and effect.
Ballots, printed in the United Kingdom, recently arrived in Juba, the administrative capital of the south. They will be flown to administrative centers in coming weeks and distributed from there by UN and NGO personnel.
Once the referendum is over, what is to prevent the north from continuing cross-border campaigns against the south? The best bet is the Satellite Sentinel Project, a unique dedicated satellite surveillance system launched jointly by the UN, Google, and the NGOs Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The aim is to provide real-time satellite surveillance of the border along with ground analysis and then provide running publication.
Not On Our Watch was founded (and funded) by U.S. actor George Clooney, and Clooney has provided the financing for the project’s start-up phase.
“We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” Clooney said in a statement.
“War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”About the Author: The major landmarks in Frank's historical interests range from ancient Persia through the Crimean War, World War II, and the modern U.S. Armed Forces, with a lot of stops in between. Frank is fascinated by the unusual, the overlooked, and the surprising. He is the New York Times number one best-selling author of the Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) and he is currently writing an historical novel on Alexander's conquest of Persia – from the Persian point of view.