After a civil war that spanned more than two decades and left at least two million people dead, there is finally some good news coming out of Sudan.
On Tuesday, it was announced that South Sudan voted to secede from the north.
Ninety-eight percent of Sudanese people voted for peace and prosperity – something that they have long been denied. It’s something that has been wonderful to witness, though I’m sure if I were a resident of Sudan and experienced the obstacles that the people in that country have, the landslide vote would be that much sweeter.
As I continuously watched the coverage of the referendum, the one thing that moved me most was the people’s determination to cast their votes. Some Sudanese walked for days to exercise their right … now that’s true fortitude. Fortitude that I wished more Americans possessed.
I remember during the last general election, I learned of a woman in her 30s who had never voted. When she told me that she never voted, I was especially surprised given the culture of today and because this person was highly educated. I falsely believed that someone of great intelligence would not only understand the importance of the democratic process, but she would actually partake in that process. Boy, was I wrong.
Thinking of the determination of those Sudanese who walked for days to vote reminded me how complacent Americans have become and how short our memories are. It wasn’t that long ago when Blacks were denied the right to vote. And even when we were allowed to vote, it wasn’t uncommon for our people to be intimidated or flat out be prohibited to vote. Now that we no longer face such overt opposition, many people don’t seem to value the right to vote, anymore. It seems they need a major reality check … the Sudanese people are just the ones to give these overly complacent Americans such a dose of reality.
While the results of the successful vote are certainly cause for celebration as well as a tremendous step forward in Africa’s journey toward democracy, the kind of peace that transcends time will take compromise and cooperation from both the north and the south as well as international assistance.
The United States has already expressed its commitment. Last month, President Barack Obama said if Sudan chooses peace, “there is a path to normal relations with the United States, including the lifting of economic sanctions and beginning the process of removing Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.”
Prior to last month’s election in Sudan, one American blogger questioned our country’s interest in Sudan. This blogger couldn’t understand why the United States devoted such attention to the issues in Sudan.
The answer is simple and it’s one that speaks of our interests and values.
Interest first: South Sudan is going to be a major oil exporter. It is in the best interest of the United States and the rest of the world that the oil gets out to markets all over the globe.
Now for the values part: more important than oil is human life. If the vote would have come out differently, or if the North Sudanese tried to keep the South from seceding, then hundreds and thousands of people would die. We could very easily see genocide. If another genocide occurred, the United States would spend tons of billions of dollars trying to resolve the crisis.
The more productive, cost-efficient and humane thing to do is to avoid a war, rather than trying to end one.
The future for Sudan is exciting … I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the people who have endured far too much pain and suffering over the years. Southern Sudan will become an independent state this July.
You can e-mail comments to Shannon Williams at email@example.com.