Thursday, November 25, 2010
Omar al-Bashir and the two wedding rings.
In some of most strategic intersection of Sudan's capital Khartoum, there are huge campaign billboards with the picture of President Omar al-Bashir, and next to him there are two wedding rings.
One ring is black and the other one is white, the two are held together by a ribbon with the colors of Sudan's national flag.
The black ring symbolises the country's south, mainly inhabited by black African tribes, while the white one represents the mainly Arab north.
It's a message the incumbent president wants no one to miss, one he continually hyped up during a vigorous and well organised campaign that took him to most parts of the country: that he will keep the country united at whatever cost.
But unity is what seems to elude Sudan by the day.
The referendum is part of the 2005 peace deal that brought to an end more than two decades of civil war fought over ethnicity, oil, religion and resources.
Intended to set Sudan on the path to democracy and make unity more attractive to the people of the south, the polls seem to be going against the very intentions for which they were included in the peace deal.
Al-Bashir has publicly stated that he would accept secession.
"If the result of the referendum is separation, the Khartoum government will be the first to recognise this decision. We will support the newborn government in the south," he said in January while addressing a public meeting in the south.
Many doubt he is sincere, however.
Division will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.
Most of Sudan's oil is in the south and he would not want to be seen as the man under whose watch Sudan got divided with the possibility of follow-on Balkanization looming large.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in particular, are a grave concern as both have previously fought alongside the south.