Sarah Duku, a native of Southern Sudan now living in Ireland, travelled to London to vote in the referendum which could see her homeland become the world’s newest nation.
She described the act of casting her vote as ‘an historic moment.’
And she is optimistic about the future, believing that while an independent Southern Sudan will still have to deal with inter-tribal disputes, there is less chance of a return to civil war with the north.
Sarah, who lives in Drogheda, is mother to three-year-old Waran. Her parents live in Northern Sudan, having fled their home in Kajo-Keji for Khartoum during the last civil war. This ended with the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Her mother visited her at the end of last year, but returned to Sudan before the referendum got underway on January 9.
“The Southerners in Khartoum have moved back in great numbers, many are living in camps waiting for transport back to Juba,” she said. “My mother wants to return south but my father has a farming business in eastern Sudan so he is stuck. We are concerned that if the South opts for secession, come July 9 and the dissolution of the current government we will not have citizenship or trading rights in the North.”
Sarah said she was confident the referendum would result in independence for Southern Sudan, but acknowledged that there are still difficult times ahead. “I know that in any country, particularly in Africa, there is corruption, and within Sudan we have very many tribes. That is a huge worry, and the situation in Abyei is a worry, but we are hopeful after hearing the promise of the President that there will not be another civil war,” she said.
Sarah came to Ireland from Khartoum 15 years ago on a scholarship from the Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum. She never returned. Her husband, also from Sudan, was a war refugee in Canada, and spends his time between Ireland and Canada.
London was not only Sarah’s closest polling station, but the only polling station in Europe. She was disheartened that only 653 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12145472) registered to vote in London, although she said that the cost and visa issues would have affected the numbers able to travel to both register and vote.
“I am confident that my vote will count,” she said. “But many are not so confident and fear the vote may be rigged.
“I felt it was just so important to vote. For me it is a historic moment and I wanted to be part of it.”
Connor Diocese has been in partnership with the Diocese of Yei, Southern Sudan, since 2007.