Interview on Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence

Img_4014 Posted by David Gough on Thu, 23 Dec 2010 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence presenter William Crawley interviewed me last Sunday 19th December as part of my role in the Sudan Partnership Group.

On their return from a CMS Ireland META to Yei Diocese in Sudan in July Archdeacon Stephen Forde and Canon Cecil Wilson shared with me their concerns over the future of Sudan following the January Referendum. Many locals they spoke to at the time in Yei feared that the North would block succession and that another war would be the outcome.

This conversation resulted in the 3 of us forming what we call the Sudan Partnership Group, the primary focus of the group is to lobby on behalf of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

During the short interview William asked me what the Church was doing in the run up to the Referendum.

I shared that on my recent visit to Sudan, I had been able to attend one of the many conferences Diocese’s were holding to inform the people about the Referendum voting process. He questioned whether the Church was telling it’s people how to vote and I was able to explain that the Church was concentrating on telling people about the registration and the voting process – not twisting peoples arms to vote in a particular way.

When he invited me to explain how the group had been trying to engage people her I was able to share how Archbishop Alan Harper and several Bishop’s were supporting our efforts. Also how we had circulated Press Releases and also had a 2-hour meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dublin exactly a month to the day before a Referendum in Sudan and the Sudan Partnership Group has an appointment with the First Minister, Peter Robinson, but unfortunately it will be after the Referendum vote.

One of our aims was to call upon the guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to ensure that the right of the people for self-determination is upheld. We asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to represent this view at the Foreign Minister meeting last Monday in Brussels about Sudan Referendum.

It was encouraging that the EU had deployed a 16-strong team of observers to monitor the voter registration in Sudan and that the Carter Centre had already reported that as far as their 50 observers were concerned the “…registration process was credible.”

To date over 3.2 million people (96% of eligible voters) have registered for the Sudan Referendum: 116,890 in north Sudan; 9,431 in Australia; 2,294 in Canada; 2,985 in Egypt; 7,370 in Ethiopia; 13,291 in Kenya and 654 in UK. There are hundreds of Sudanese resident in Ireland must travel to London to register, and again to vote, in order to make their voices heard.

With registration or voting not possible in Ireland, how likely is it that the Southern Sudan community here will be able to travel to register and vote in London?

Reports from our partners in Sudan suggest that tens of thousands of Southerners have been arriving arriving in Abyei from the North. Part of the problem is that the North and SPLM are yet to agree on the Abyei Referendum (which is also scheduled for 9th January). Rumours are rife that the North are supporting the Arab Messeriya (pastoralists) to set up an alternative government in Abyei making it a potential catalyst for a return to war. In July 2009 Court of Arbitration Hague defined the disputed border SPLM and the North agreed on this ruling. But the issues now seem wider than the border and include disputes over the oil, land issues, water and lifestock grazing rights and between the Dinka Ngok and Arab Messeriya.

There have been reports that the North is bombing over Southern border and of course the WikiLeaks speculation that Omar al-Bashir siphoned $9bn in oil money and deposited it in foreign accounts some, allegedly in Lloyds bank London. Also that both the North and South have extensive forces positioned at the borders.

With all these rumours, delays and jockeying for position the bottom line is that we need to pray for a peaceful and fair referendum on the 9th January so that there is freedom for all the people to vote. We pray that Southerners in the north to be given the opportunity to vote without retribution as well as security of the displaced in the North and for the citizenship of Southerners in the North.

Please use this prayer for the Referendum written by one of our partners Bishop Anthony Poggo, of Kajo-Keji…

Prayer for the Referendum

Almighty God, we thank you for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). As the CPA comes to the end, we pray for the preparations for the Referendum.

We pray that all the plans for the preparations for Southern Sudan’s referendum that is to take place on 9th January will be done well. There are many challenges; we pray that you will enable the various actors to overcome these obstacles. We pray for the work of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission as well as the State Tasks Forces that they will conduct the exercise well.

We thank you that the voter registration has gone well in most parts of Southern Sudan. As we enter the official campaign period, we pray that this will be conducted peacefully.

We pray for the two partners who are discussing post referendum issues on citizenship, oil, national debt and currency so that these discussions will be successful. Pray that the issue of Abyei will also be discussed and agreed upon amicably.

We pray that the actual voting will be held in a free and fair atmosphere and that all the partners will accept the results.

We pray this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.