The East African nation of Sudan has long experienced conflict between its mainly Christian northern region and its mainly Muslim southern one. Now, South Sudan is preparing for a vote on whether to break away from the North and become its own country.
In 2005, a peace accord signaled an end to a 21-year-long civil war between Sudan's northern and southern regions, and the impending vote is part of that peace agreement. But, questions loom about whether Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and other top officials in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, will allow the vote to go forward as planned and whether they will accept the outcome.
To ward off potential violence ahead of the controversial vote, the U.N. has sent 10,000 peacekeepers to points along the border. President Obama has also said that keeping the peace in Sudan is one of the U.S.'s greatest foreign policy priorities. At a U.N. meeting last month, he asked Sudanese officials to allow the vote to go forward peacefully and suggested relations between Sudan and the U.S. would improve if they did so.
The first three minutes of this video is an overview of the situation in Sudan, and the rest is a discussion about the vote with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.
"There is a great fear, great risk of conflict." - Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, Episcopal Archbishop of Sudan
"If you have an outbreak of war between the north and the south in Sudan, not only could that erupt in more violence that could lead to millions of deaths, but solving the problem in Darfur becomes that much more difficult." - U.S. President Barack Obama
"The people of Southern Sudan have waited for generations to have the opportunity to determine their future. And they are determined to have it occur on schedule on January 9. And, yet, the realities are, both logistical and political, that it's uncertain that this will in fact be able to be conducted on time, as planned." - Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
1. Where is Sudan?
2. What do you know about conflicts that have taken place in Sudan recently?
3. What does it mean when one region secedes from another?
1. Can you think of other examples of when countries or regions have divided or tried to divide as a result of ideological disagreements or civil war?
2. According to the video, how did the U.S. encourage Sudanese leaders to allow the vote to go forward? Why does the U.S. have the power to influence such decisions? Do you think it's right for the U.S. to get involved?
3. What logistical issues could arise when dividing a country into multiple parts? What sorts of things might the different sections disagree about?