Approaching Referendum in Sudan 'Already Flying the Flag of an Independent State'
Voters in Southern Sudan will soon decide whether to secede from Sudan. Many anticipate that the referendum could result in renewed violence between the north and the south. Southern Sudan's regional representative in Cairo, Ruben Marial Benjamin, spoke with SPIEGEL about the approaching ballot.
SPIEGEL: On Jan. 9, 2011, Southern Sudan will vote on secession from the republic of Sudan. Are you certain that the majority will vote for secession?
Benjamin: Yes, we are already flying the flag of an independent state on our government buildings. The government in Khartoum doesn't have anything against it.
SPIEGEL: The African Union is calling for a united Sudan.
Benjamin: That is true. The reason behind that though, is the fear that the borders which were arbitrarily drawn by European nations in the 19th and 20th centuries, could be moved in other parts of our continent too.
SPIEGEL: Egypt, which maintains a close relationship with Khartoum, would also prefer an undivided Sudan.
Benjamin: Cairo is getting used to the idea of our independence. The national airline, Egypt Air, has started direct flights to our capital Juba. The general consulate there will receive the status of an embassy. Egyptian business people are already looking into potential investments.
SPIEGEL: What would be Southern Sudan's state religion?
Benjamin: Around 80 percent of Southern Sudanese are Christians. During the 20-year civil war, the Muslim north tried to convert the believers in indigenous faiths to Islam. But people turned to Christianity. We want to build a secular political system in which state and religion are strictly segregated.
Interview conducted by Volkhard Windfuhr