Southern Sudan: Preparing for a peaceful 2011 referendum
27 August 2010

Since the peace agreement was signed in 2005 the Southern Sudanese have returned in large numbers and started rebuilding their country from scratch. In January 2011 they will have to decide whether they want to secede from the north or not (Frido Pflueger SJ/JRS).
"A lot of civic education is needed to make people understand the meaning of the referendum and help them vote wisely."

Nimule, 27 August 2009 – In preparation for the referendum on southern independence scheduled for January 2011, JRS recently trained 12 community peace facilitators and three government and church representatives in Nimule, Pageri and Mugali sub-counties, Southern Sudan.

During the four-day training which took place in July participants studied and discussed the 2009 referendum act in detail, learned more about the right to self-determination and looked at positive and negative examples of independence referenda around the world.

"Since the participants are already engaged in their communities, we expect them to use the knowledge they acquired to build awareness among their fellow citizens and to help them participate successfully in next year’s referendum," said Anyanzo Charles Jacob, JRS peace education coordinator in Nimule. "A lot of civic education is needed to make people understand the meaning of the referendum and help them vote wisely," he added.

"I thank JRS for organising this training at this crucial moment," said Justin Sabasaba, the local government representative of Pageri sub-county. "It is important because it helps prepare for the coming referendum," he added.

"There are only five months left before the referendum takes place and nobody has taken initiative to build awareness among the communities except for JRS," said Mali William, one of the participants. "This is a big challenge for our country," he added. "We now have the skills and knowledge to help our communities and I promise that we will pass on this information before September 2010," said Mr William.

JRS project director, Chandia Paska, also encouraged participants to use the knowledge they gained: "I urge you to take the skills and knowledge you acquired to your community to help them make an informed decision in the referendum," said Ms Paska. "Do not neglect the women since they form the majority in our communities," she added. The three sub-counties comprise about 50,000 eligible voters of which 30,000 are women.

"Most of the community members who came back to Southern Sudan after years of exile see no reason to vote for separation because they say they were driven into exile by the Sudan People Liberation Army which now forms the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS)," explains Mr Jacob. "Many refugees suffered severely during their flight so for them voting for separation means they might suffer again," he added.

In his closing remarks Mr Jacob thanked the participants for their commitment during the training. "I encourage you to use your knowledge because the success of the referendum depends on the awareness within the communities," he said.

The 15 participants were the first bunch of community members JRS trained so far. In collaboration with the peace facilitators JRS will train another 270 community members before end of September 2010. These trainees will then continue training others in their communities. Through a celebration on World Peace Day JRS will reach out to 5,000 people, building awareness on the referendum.

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Angelika Mendes
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