Baroness Kinnock writes today in The Independent on the referendum currently taking place in Sudan, which could see the south of the country secede from the north. But, as she points out, doom-mongers predict that this can only lead to unrest. Baroness Kinnock doesn’t accept this:
As I have seen on several visits to both the North and South over the past 20 years, there is a vibrancy and a resilience which has always sustained the Sudanese. Violence was widely – and wrongly – predicted in the Sudanese elections last year. In reality, the results were generally, if grudgingly, accepted. Similarly, it is likely that the result of the referendum will be accepted, even if there are strong reservations, because the population is desperate for peace and stability.
Whilst saying this, Baroness Kinnock does not blithely ignore the possibility of problems down the road. Indeed, she notes:
Pressing issues need to be tackled and resolved – chief among them citizenship rights, finance and, above all, an oil wealth-sharing deal with appropriate guarantees and timescales. Such a deal should not be beyond the wit of negotiators. The South, after all, depends on oil sales for 98 per cent of its revenue, and the North has all of the pipelines, refineries and the seaport. The oil industry will deliver benefits to both Sudanese nations only if they work together on a shared business basis. The UK and others will need to exert external pressure on this and on other disputed areas of concern.
Yet, whilst recognising the risks, including those arising from the brinkmanship which leaders on both sides continue to engage in, now is not the time to wring our hands and despair about the future of the new South Sudan. Neither is it the time to step back from strong and committed engagement with a people who, after all, have little or no experience of political freedom or participatory democracy.
The long-suffering Sudanese people need schools for their children and food on their tables. There are many potential flashpoints, but we can acknowledge them, while also accepting that the opportunity to secure enduring peace is within sight.
You can read the full article (and it is definitely worth a read) over on The Independent website.