by Fayez el-Zaki Hassan
KHARTOUM, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- On the fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between north and south Sudan on the ninth of January 2005, southern Sudanese residing in the north expressed strong desire for unity through a big celebration.
A group of 13 southern Sudanese tribes, under the title "Kiraish," organized a peace festival in Umbada area in Omdurman, Khartoum State, where the group performed folkloric dances and songs.
These songs "reflect joy and happiness of the citizens on the fifth anniversary of the CPA, which brought peace to our homeland," said Sulaiman Ismail Genaih, a leading figure in the southern Sudanese tribe of Kiraish.
"We live here in north Sudan and we do not feel any difference between here and south Sudan. We have merged into the local community and we do not want, after all these years, to separate," he said.
Despite the growing probabilities that the referendum on self-determination for south Sudan, scheduled for January 2011, would result in secession of the south from the north, yet the southern Sudanese living in north Sudan are still calling for unity, believing it would likely to happen.
There is an estimated number of 521,000 southern Sudanese living in the north according to the recent population census, however, the southerners said the number is bigger than that.
Thousands of southerners fled to the north after the civil war broke in the south in 1983.
These southern Sudanese constitute a decisive factor in the forthcoming referendum, and they would probably outbalance the option for unity out of the two referendum options -- unity or separation.
Last December, the Sudanese parliament adopted the law of referendum on self-determination for South Sudan, it stipulates that south Sudan could separate from north Sudan if 50 percent plus one of the voters supported this option, provided that at least 60 percent of the voters participate the referendum.
For her part, Maria Angelo, a southern Sudanese student, said that "I'm studying here, and I live in the north. I do not know how our destiny could be if south Sudan separated from the north. I have many friends here and I do not want to leave them. We pray that Sudan will remain united."
Ali Tamim Fartag, adviser to the Sudanese President and a leading southern Sudanese figure, told Xinhua that "the festival is a message to the leaders of both north and south Sudan that an important sector of south Sudan is eager for unity, and is working to make unity an attractive option."
He added that the festival reflected desire of a broad sector of southern Sudanese to remain within a united Sudan, saying that these southerners lived in the north and enjoyed basic services and security.
He also stressed the importance that both northerners and southerners should work together in the coming period to outbalance the option for unity.
"We need to work together for the top interest of Sudan and help to keep it united without political bargaining or personal or individual interests," he said.