Sudanese voter drive kicks off peacefully in Omaha
November 16th, 2010
Omaha, NE – Voting registration got underway in Omaha Tuesday, Nov. 16 for a referendum in Sudan thatâ€™s been called a â€œdefining momentâ€ for that war-torn nation.
A steady stream of voters trickled in for the first day of the registration drive in Omaha. Sudanese refugees from around the country are expected to travel to the city over the next two weeks to register to vote in a January referendum. Omaha is one of three cities in the United States where Sudanese can registerâ€¦ and later return to vote.Â The city was chosen because of its large Sudanese refugee population. Tipkwan Ajang came to the U.S. from Sudan 11 years ago. A National Guard soldier and student at Metropolitan Community College, he said heâ€™s made a home for himself here.
â€œIâ€™m in my home, I feel safe, I feel good, but thereâ€™s still something touching me in my country, he said in broken English. â€œWhen there is no freedom, no equality, no free speech and religionâ€¦ thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m still concerned about anything going on in Sudan.â€
Januaryâ€™s referendum will decide whether the mainly Christian Southern Sudan will split from the mainly Arab and Islamic north, and form its own country. The vote is considered a crucial test of a 2005 peace agreement that ended 40 years of bloody civil war.
â€œWe should be united all the time,â€ Ajang said. But although he doesnâ€™t want complete separation, he said he plans to vote for independence.
â€œBecause of the bad treatment that we as Southerners are receiving from the government of Khartoum.â€ Ajang said Islamic fundamentalist government groups are taking over the Khartoum government in the North, and mistreating non-Muslim people.
Ajang said he still has family in Sudan, and many others died in the violence. So many in fact, he said he doesnâ€™t have an accurate count. He is hopeful, though, that those who remain will also be registering their names to cast their ballots.
â€œI have hope,â€ he said, â€œthe same hope that I have built up in myself, I have confidence if the referendumâ€™s not being rejected or if thereâ€™s not violenceâ€¦. then I believe they will vote.â€
Ajangâ€™s wife and children are safe, and hopefully casting their votes. But theyâ€™ll be doing so in Australia. The family was split up, something which occurs frequently when refugees flee a war-torn nation.
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