Editor's note, April 20, 2010: MCC thanks you for your prayers for peace during Sudan's elections. The elections were largely conducted peacefully, albeit protests of fraud and confusion.
AKRON, Pa. – As controversial elections are scheduled to begin in Sudan on Sunday, April 11, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) workers there ask people to pray that the fragile peace in southern Sudan will hold.
MCC staff is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 10 for a prearranged leave. They will continue to assess the situation.
“We ask people to hold this country in prayer because the chance of going back to war seems to be growing in light of the elections,” said Bob Herr, an MCC associate director for East Africa.
The upcoming elections, which were established as part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended 22 years of Sudanese civil war, were disrupted in early April when the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) withdrew its presidential candidate from elections in the North, citing electoral irregularities.
The election controversy raises concerns about a scheduled 2011 referendum, also part of the 2005 peace agreement, that would allow southern Sudan to vote regarding secession from Sudan, said Herr. Anything that threatens the referendum, he said, is likely to increase the potential for violence that is always just below the surface in Sudan.
“We hope that the shifting terms for the (national) election will not lapse into actual fighting or military action,” Herr said.
Increased tensions threaten the well-being of 1.7 million displaced people who have returned to their homeland in southern Sudan since 2005. More than 4 million people fled their homes during the civil war and 2 million were killed.
In the past two years, MCC has launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to help returnees rebuild their lives. The campaign, “Coming Home: Sudan,” is focused on HIV and AIDS projects, women’s income generation, supporting education, assisting farmers and promoting peace in southern Sudan.
Serving in Sudan for MCC are Joan and Leroy Willems, Peoria, Ariz., (Trinity Mennonite Church); Jacob Mathre, Barlow, Fla. (First Presbyterian Church, Barlow); Kaitlyn and Luke Jantzi, Kitchener, Ont., (Hawkesville Mennonite Church); and Joel Kroeker and Heather Peters, Hanley, Sask., (Hanley Mennonite Church). Kirk Harris, New York, N.Y., who formerly worked with the MCC United Nations Office, is also currently serving in Sudan with MCC on a short-term assignment.