Three and a half months from now, the world's newest nation will be born: the Republic of Southern Sudan. Heady times for a people who have fought for fifty years for freedom, and won the right to vote in what was a peaceful independence referendum in January. But this road to freedom is filled with danger points, none more so than Abyei, the hotly disputed Connecticut-sized territory wedged within the border between North and South.
Peace processes are full of moments, of choices, with implications that affect hundreds of thousands of lives. Sudan is mired in one of those moments, and leaders in Northern and Southern Sudan are facing a monumental choice between war and peace. The locus for this poignant moment is Abyei. Militias aligned with the North burned three villages in the last few weeks, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of Abyei's residents. Here is visual evidence from the Satellite Sentinel Project.
We both have visited Abyei since the beginning of the year.
We've talked to the residents there who feel abandoned by the international community. But we also know it is not too late to change the equation. The U.S. should continue to enhance its diplomatic efforts in support of a deal on Abyei between North and South Sudan, and redouble its efforts to revitalize the peace process for Darfur, where 70,000 people have been newly displaced in the past few months. Tell President Obama you support enhanced diplomatic engagement on Abyei and Darfur as the best way to support peace and protect civilian life in Sudan. Peace is possible in Sudan in 2011. The U.S. role will be critical. President Obama said that standing idly by was not an option in Libya. This is equally true in Sudan. The time to act is now. Actress and human rights activist Mia Farrow has just returned from her latest trip to Southern Sudan. John Prendergast is a human rights activist and author. He is co-founder of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. He is the co-author of The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes.