Sudan marks UN International Peace Day
This year's UN International Peace Day celebrations occurred in various corners of Sudan and spotlighted the self-determination referenda scheduled to take place in January 2011 in Southern Sudan and Abyei.
This year's festivities featured the twin themes of Youth for Peace and Development from the side of the UN and Making Peace Happen from the African Union, which spearheaded the event for the first time.
In the regional capital of Juba, the Government of Southern Sudan made history of its own by hosting the event for the first time since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.
"The celebrations are happening at the right time in the history of the Sudan," said Ambassador Busho Ndinyenka, the Ugandan consul general in Juba and dean of the African diplomatic corps stationed in Southern Sudan.
"We as the African diplomats in Juba would like to urge all the parties of the CPA, the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, to go the extra mile to make peace happen," he added.
Speaking at Juba's Nyakuron Cultural Centre, the Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro invited the audience to pray for a free, fair and peaceful voting process as part of a nationwide, 101-day campaign of prayer "towards a peaceful referendum in Sudan."
In the national capital of Khartoum, an estimated 250 university students raised concerns about their country's future during a symposium on Youth for Peace and Development. During a heated debate, the youth posed questions about the lack of reconciliation, the marginalization of political forces and the definition of unity.
In his presentation, the political scientist Omer Abdelaziz said that 80 per cent of the CPA had been achieved thus far. But the most important milestones of the peace process remained the referenda in his judgment, and he cautioned about the renewal of armed conflict if various points of dispute between the north and south are not resolved soon.
In the Upper Nile State capital of Malakal, the day-long celebrations began with a 90-minute march through the city's streets that was led by the Southern Sudan Police Service band and attracted an estimated 4,000 participants.
The state governor Simon Kun Pouch urged his audience to be patient during the countdown to the Southern Sudan referendum vote, which is scheduled for 9 January. "I encourage you to determine your own future in the referendum," he said. "Whether you want unity or separation, it's important that the situation remains peaceful."
In the Western Bahr El-Ghazal State capital of Wau, Governor Brig. Riziq Zakaria Hassan praised UNMIS and the international community for supporting the implementation of the CPA but expressed his worries about delays in the referendum timetable.
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by a UN General Assembly resolution.