On Monday the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission announced the preliminary results of the self determination referendum of Southern Sudan. The results showed that 98.83 percent of all voters chose independence. The overwhelming voter turnout is an official and monumental reflection of the will of the people of Southern Sudan. View the UN Secretary General’s statement here.
Throughout the voting period, the referendum was widely expected to pass. The passage of the referendum makes South Sudan its own country, with the hope of ending its long history of violence. The creation of an independent Southern Sudan also means rearranging commercial and political alliances throughout the region.
The next step is defining the borders between the North and South which is highly disputed due to its rich oil fields, mineral deposits, fertile land, and access to water. Beyond the access to oil and other resources, the country is also divided by religion and language barriers. Click here for a detailed map of the disputed areas within the Sudan.
President Hu Visits the U.S.
Chinese President Hu Jintao is wrapping up his state visit to the United States with a brief stop in Chicago to meet with American and Chinese businessmen. His trip to the U.S. marks a new chapter in China-U.S. diplomacy.
President Hu was the guest of honor at a State Dinner hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, January 19th at the White House. President Obama and President Hu stressed the two nations’ common interests, including potential for increased economic cooperation and the benefits of U.S.-China ties.
The two leaders also reached consensus on many important issues, including military relations, Iran, Sudan, space technology, and high-level exchanges. However, President Obama and President Hu soft-pedaled on longstanding issues that divide them, such as China’s human rights records and diplomatic dealings, China’s currency policy, and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.
A day after the State Dinner, President Hu delivered an address in Washington in which he renounced “hegemony” and “expansionism.” President Hu also held a Capitol Hill meeting on Thursday, January 20th with Senate leaders from both parties, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.
According to China’s vice foreign minister, President Hu’s visit to Washington “proved to be successful.”
An Unexpected Visitor
Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier made a surprise return to Port-au-Prince on Sunday, January 16th, after being in exile for 25 years. His return added strain to an already complicated political atmosphere in Haiti brought on by the nation’s chaotic and inconclusive November 28th elections.
A day after Duvalier’s mysterious reappearance, human rights groups demanded that Haiti arrest Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” for “crimes against humanity.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Duvalier, 59, should be brought to trial for the killings and torture of thousands of opponents at the hands of the Tonton Macoutes militia during his 15 years in power.
On Tuesday, January 18th, Duvalier was briefly taken into police custody and questioned over accusations that he stole millions of dollars from the treasury during his reign. After about four hours, he was released. He could still face eventual arrest and a trial.
Duvalier did not board his scheduled flight out of Haiti on Thursday, January 20th and remains in the country as a free man.
The ex-dictator was forced into French exile in 1986 following a popular uprising against his government, which was widely believed to be brutal and corrupt.
Turmoil in Tunisia
Although the interim government that took over when President Ben Ali fled the country in January offered major concessions, thousands of Tunisians are now demanding the dissolution of this new political entity; they are angry that several prominent members of former President Ben Ali’s government (the Constitutional Democratic Rally) have been included in the transitional cabinet, which met for the first time in Tunis on Thursday.
The protests that began in December 2010 are believed to have started over unemployment, inflation, rumors of corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and the President’s conspicuous displays of wealth. According to the United Nations, about 100 people died during the upheaval that swept across the north African country.
The interim government is currently preparing for new presidential elections and to speed up political reforms.
A Country Divided
Southern Sudan is heading for a split. 99% of the people who participated in Southern Sudan’s week-long Referendum have opted for independence with the north. Just 1.4% of people have voted for continued unity with the north.
The counting will be finished on January 31st, and the final results will be reported on February 14th. If the result is confirmed, the new country is set to formally declare its independence on July 9th.
President Omar al-Bashir has said he will accept the result of the vote, which was held after years of war.
On Tuesday, January 18, Robert Sargent Shriver passed away at the age of 95. Mr. Shriver’s passion was civic life, and he fully devoted himself to honoring public service with his life’s work. Mr. Shriver, a brother-in-law of President John Kennedy, was the first director of the Peace Corps, serving in that post from 1961 to 1966, architect of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, US ambassador to France, vice presidential nominee and candidate for president. He was awarded the President Medal of Freedom in 1994.
His legacy of service to this country and the world will always be remembered.