BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
In five months, a new country will join the world community. Official results indicate that 98.9 percent of the population in Southern Sudan approved to secede from the north to create a new country.
What most observers feared would cause more violence during the referendum process, concluded seamlessly and created a new country based on a people’s right to self-determination. Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir welcomed the referendum and congratulated the people of Southern Sudan, while most world leaders hailed and praised the vote.
This reality can only be welcomed. The creation of a new country based on the will of its people is a sacred tenet of democracy and allows the citizens of that country to determine their own fate through national discourse, cooperation and sense of national belonging.
If only the same international standards applied to all countries that were formed by their citizen’s will and vote. The international community has used double standards to address these movements, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Karabakh case is a glaring example of how the international community has been reticent to accept change and adhere to the principle of people’s right to self-determination.
At the core of the peace process for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the international community’s and mediating powers’ inability to reconcile with the reality that 20 years ago, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh went to the polls and in an equally overwhelming show of their will voted for independence. Since then, a second constitutional referendum reinforced the Karabakh people’s desire for independence.
For centuries Sudan has been at the center power plays by world powers who have sought to dominate and impose their will on the indigenous people there. Not unlike Karabakh, Southern Sudan was also granted autonomous status, which resulted in last month’s referendum on secession.
It should be interesting to see Azerbaijan’s or Turkey’s response to the referendum. If Azerbaijan recognizes the Southern Sudan vote, it would have no other choice but to recognize Karabakh’s independence. If Turkey, which has offered refuge for Bashir, who is wanted on Genocide charges by the International Criminal Court, follows its allies example and welcomes the vote, then it would also have to recognize Karabakh and go counter to the wishes of its Azeri “brothers.”
The Southern Sudan referendum can and should be a precedent for the Nagorno-Karabakh case. The sooner that happens the better for the advancement of a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict. Meanwhile, the will expressed by the people of Southern Sudan should be welcomed, and vote recognized by all.