Sudan Referendum in Full Swing

The week long referendum for independence of South Sudan is now in full swing. Of course this means that the typical word battle is also underway. While I would much rather hear about and see images from the ground – there isn’t much violence going on.  Little violence = limited coverage. Unlike popular celebrity expectations, the referendum has thus far been fairly peaceful and jubilant. Instead, most of the criticism has been between development experts and celebrity activists.

Check out these stories for more on the chatter:

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/132832275/foreign-policy-clooneys-presence-not-helping-sudan

http://texasinafrica.blogspot.com/

http://people.tamu.edu/~cwimpy/blog/more-thoughts-on-the-refere.html

http://habanahaba.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/its-not-just-me-ranting-about-the-media/

Personally, I find that celebrity activism is a tool for popularity and publicity. The real difference is being made by individuals on the ground – “searchers” according to William Easterly. Take William Kamkwamba’s story- a boy drops out of school, builds a windmill from junk, and manages to begin powering schools and households throughout his Malawian village. Meanwhile, celebrity activism has led to boarding school scandals, adoption fraud, and more “awareness campaigns” than actionable projects.

I wish that the reporters would take a moment and talk about the real stories of South Sudan, like this one from Cameron Wimpy, who is currently blogging from Juba-

“Interestingly, I had a Sudanese voter approach me today after he voted to ask if I was with the media. He was disappointed when I said no, and he said he wanted to ‘say something to the world from his heart.’ He then proceeded to tell me anyway.

His message was one of happiness, warning, hope, and caution. He first told me how happy he was that the referendum had finally come. He was confident that the vote was only symbolic, and there was little doubt that secession was coming. He was very concerned that the North would not accept the results, and warned that the South was prepared to return to war. Not, he said, because they wanted to, but because they would have to if the North tried to ‘take away the freedom brought from this referendum.’ He said he truly hopes that his ‘comrades in the North’ will accept the results and decide to live in peace. His last thoughts were in respect to the future of Southern Sudan. He said that it was disappointing to him that the leadership of the country was going to be made up of former guerrilla leaders, and not the most qualified civilians. He said only a truly democratic South Sudan could survive and remain peaceful. This, he said, means that the former SPLM commanders should be proud of their service, but it was now their duty to democratically vie for power like anyone else, and that he said, ‘is no less patriotic.'”

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