New Year with new neighbour? Peace calls ahead of South Sudan referendum

As the year draws to an end, the East African region is packed action and high on the events to watch will the Sudan referendum where South Sudanese will determine their independence from the Khartoum-based northern Sudan government.

Many hope the results from the referendum vote slated for a week from January 9, 2011 will be accepted. Many leading voices including Omar al Bashir, the president of Sudan have already sort of shown a tilt to accepting that Africa’s largest country will finally be split. This means we in Uganda will be having new neighbours who aren’t so new. The support for a new nation is high in the region.

For those watched those gruesome pictures of millions of south Sudanese starving, dying and displaced during the long civil war and those who survived in IDP camps in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, the independence is only a small step. The split will not be an end in itself it should give south Sudanese power to closely watch their government. The SPLM which has been in power will finally have to be more accountable and it must check the internal tribal conflicts that have taken many other lives. Provide better social services to the population where nothing has existed in many decades. This is not a simple task.

Internationally we have seen the US President call on both parties – north and south to respect the outcome of the referendum.

The campaign for a peaceful referendum has been taken to the music world. And there could never be a better singer to lead the crusade. Emmanuel Jal’s who was a child soldier in the long war against the north who survived and became a recording artist is leading the war to call for support of the decision of millions in the south.

Jal is returning to East Africa in a few days to promote his international hit single, ‘We Want Peace’ (featuring Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Kofi Annan and more). He will be in Nairobi where he will hold listening sessions before and after referendum.

Part of the song, a good reminder tohe world: “Rwanda, never again, and after Rwanda, what’s happening? Not far from the …

Jal who has been campaigned for increased attention to issues of child soldiers and refugees ensured that the music video was shot on the streets and slums of Nairobi. The song ‘We Want Peace’ is part of a world-wide campaign calling on young people, regional and international leaders to actively support a peaceful process and Sudan’s upcoming referendum.

Emmanuel has Released 3 Studio albums: Gua, Ceasefire and Warchild. He has featured in the National Geographic documentary God Grew Tired of Us, a touching story of surviving war, camp life and escape of three of the Sudan lost boys.

He featured in the film Blood Diamond. Jal was also involved in the ‘Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur’ and je runs a charity Gua Africa.

“I believe I survived for a reason…to tell my story…to touch lives.”

That’s an intro to his song Warchild which is my favorite. It tells Jal’s story. He tells of his father being a police officer in government and later joining a rebel movement. Jal talks of how he was forced to be a child soldier. He lost his parents in the war.

For all they lost, for all they suffered, the people of South Sudan deserve a new beginning.

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