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Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
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Friday, 14 January 2011

006 - Southern Sudan votes on independance

North and South Sudan have suffered at the hands of decades of conflict over deep religious divides. Now the two parties are holding a week long vote to decide if Africa’s largest country should be split in two. More than 150,000 Southern Sudanese have now left the north either during or in the run up to the vote.

President Obama has hailed the vote as representing a “new chapter in history” praising that "After 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees this is the opportunity before the people of Southern Sudan.". South Sudanese voters will be presented with two symbols on their ballot papers – a single hand for independence from the north or two clasped hands for unification to continue. The split would not be the first instance of a post-independence country being recognised as a state of Africa or to vie for autonomy, following Eritrea’s breakaway from Ethiopia in 1993, Somaliland which was independent from Somalia for a mere three days in the 1960s, and frowing tensions and calls for separations in the Casamance region of Senegal, the Cabinda region of Angola and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo such as Katanga. Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi has also called for the splitting of Nigerian land.

South Sudan is one of the lowest developed countries in the world, and its people claim a long standing mistreatment at the hands of the Khartoum government. The South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir however while casting his personal ballot on Sunday called for the calm of his people, in case they either were unable to vote on the first day of polling, and for their patience due to the logistical difficulties associated with collecting and counting ballots in a country with few roads and sparsely populated areas. Indeed the result is not expected for a further 4 weeks.

There are also lingering concerns in Khartoum in the Northern region of Sudan that a southern independent land may disintegrate as regions such as Darfur seek further independence post-ballot. The Sudanese President Omar Bashir despite displaying an understanding of the reasons behind a separatist movement, has also expressed his personal unease over how a new Southern nation would provide structure and cope, telling the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera that “the south suffers from many problems. It's been at war since 1959. The south does not have the ability to provide for its citizens or create a state or authority.” In Juba for example (widely expected to be the capital of any eventual Southern state), the digital clock intended to count the minutes to referendum continues to reset as a result of the irregular and unreliable power supplies that blight the region. Bashir also suggested that southern citizens living in the northern state would not be allowed dual nationalities, but that the two lands may join in a similar form to EU bloc countries. The mainly Muslim north has promised to allow the potential new Northern Sudanese state where most people are Christian, to secede peacefully without retribution.

The independence of south Sudan will force governments to pay greater attention to the concerns and grievances of marginalised areas” - Knox Chitiyo Royal United Service Institute

Sudanese independence in its current form was gained in 1956 following more than half a century of British-Egyptian rule. For 32 years after the end of colonial rule and creation of the Sudanese independent state a civil war gripped the north and south and locked the two sides in fierce battle. The mainly Christian Southern Sudanese follow mainly traditional belief patterns and resent years of rule by the predominately Muslim Northern government and region whose politicians have in vain attempted to impose Islamic laws across the country. However are such conflicts the fault of the colonial powers that imposed such borders originally? Most of the borders the Sudanese state inherited had been assigned by the European colonists who divided the continent in the 1880s, during the "scramble for Africa".

The vote however is not expected to run smoothly throughout the nation, as oil wealthy Abyei will hold a separate referendum on whether to join the North or South at an as yet unspecified later date after the run up to the vote was marred by clashes between Southern Sudanese and Arabs over cattle grazing rights, which has been long recognised as a potential cause for violent uprise.

The week long vote ending on January 15th to decide between a continuation of alliance or separation into two lands was agreed as part of a 2005 deal to end the civil war. Turnout will be crucial, as the agreement requires that 60% of the near 4 million registered voters must participate in order for the referendum to be considered valid (which it is believed has been accomplished). The final result will be declared on February 6th, or on February 14th if an appeal against the results is lodged. If the referendum votes for a separation, then South Sudan would become the world’s newest nation on July 9th this year. A national flag and anthem have already been chosen, though debate still exists over the exact name of any resulting new land. Most people assume the new land will likely be referred to as South/Southern Sudan, though other suggestions are New Sudan or Cush (after a biblical kingdom in the area) have been mooted. The priority for North Sudan would be to maintain as much of its valuable oil wealth as is feasibly possible, as most of Sudan’s oil is situated in the south.

These are important times for Sudan, as it votes on whether Africa’s largest country should be divided, and for the South what the future holds.

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