Sudanese youth offer hope for peace despite split

Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:28pm EST
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By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters Life!) - As Sudan hurtles toward an acrimonious split, its youth offer a glimmer of hope to end the destructive cycle of civil war and tribalism which has ripped Africa's largest country apart for decades.

Sudan has seen only a few years of democracy since its independence from Britain in 1956, and civil society has borne the brunt of successive totalitarian governments.

A 2005 north-south peace deal opened limited democratic space and culminates with a 2011 referendum on independence for the south, which most expect to secede against the best efforts of the north to derail the vote, seeking to hang onto key oil resources in the south.

But as the governments of the north and south beat the drums of war with aggressive rhetoric, Sudan's youth have joined forces in a first cross-border movement to spread the message that they will not become the foot soldiers of any new conflict.

"The young are the first people to get called up during the war and will be the first to pay the price," said Edison Joseph, a southerner living in Khartoum. "Our message is simple: we will not fight."

More than 22 youth organizations from all over Sudan, the north, south, east and Darfur, met and agreed a joint platform in Khartoum to work for peace and coexistence no matter what the result of the January 9 vote. They also committed to return to their regions and spread the message.

The members have different views on what they want from the referendum. "Youth For Separation" are involved as are other groups promoting unity. But they set an example for their bickering older peers in the north and south ruling parties by ignoring their differences and working together with a single aim - to avoid war.

"We have people for secession and others for unity - but we all agree that we want the referendum to be free, fair and peaceful and we will respect whatever choice the people of south Sudan make," said Widad Derwish from a youth cultural center in northern Sudan.   Continued...