MONTREAL, Dec. 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Two upcoming referenda in Sudan will decide the fate of the nation and could lead to a surge in violence in the troubled African country. In response, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE is supporting its Sudanese partners in their actions to encourage peace before and after the vote and in their preparations to mitigate violence that could arise from the results, which are expected to be in favour of secession of the South.
Ethnic and economic tensions have been the source of ongoing conflict between North and South Sudan for decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, displacements and the destruction of infrastructure and services. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, giving more autonomy to the South and outlining provisions for an eventual referendum on its possible secession. The referendum is now scheduled for January 2011, with a simultaneous one to take place in the oil-rich region of Abyei to decide if it should remain with the North or join the South.
Preparations for the referenda have been behind schedule and there has been a build-up of troops along the border between the North and the South, causing concern over renewed violence in the country. Furthermore, since 2009, the South has seen a rise in tensions between its own communities and violent incursions from the external rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has created an atmosphere of violence and insecurity in the region.
DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE, which has been supporting projects in Sudan since the 1970s, is providing $75,000 in funding towards the emergency preparedness of Caritas offices throughout the country, including the procurement of relief items and putting in place an early warning system to help respond quickly to any outbreaks of violence.
Despite growing fears of violence related to the referenda, the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference are urging for a peaceful vote and acceptance of the results. "Fear needs to be replaced by hope so that all people can live in freedom and peace. The outcome of the referenda should not be seen as a threat to either side, but an opportunity. If the outcome is secession, this does not mean the end of the relationship between North and South. Secession is a division of land, not a division of peoples," they said at their plenary in November.
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