September 25, 2010 (JUBA) – Recent remarks made by Kamal Obeid, Sudan Information Minister on the status of southern Sudanese living in the north, should the latter opt for independence in next year’s referendum, totally undermines the ongoing post-referendum discussions being mediated by the African Union (AU), a top official said yesterday.
"They will not enjoy citizenship rights, jobs or benefits, they will not be allowed to buy or sell in Khartoum market and they will not treated in hospitals," Obeid said in statements carried by public radio.
"We will not even give them a needle in the hospital," he added.
Deng Arop, the Abyei area administrator told Sudan Tribune in a phone interview from the oil-rich region that the Minister’s statement was “very irresponsible” and contravenes provisions within the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The signing of the CPA in 2005 ended over two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. One of its stipulations was the right of the southern Sudanese to vote on secession in January 2011, preparations for which are woefully behind schedule and are the subject of heated debate.
“I don’t think the Information Minister in the federal government understands the whole referendum issue, let alone the meaning of the self-determination of the south. Such a statement is very unfortunate, especially from a Minister,” Arop said.
Lokulenge Lole, the Chief Internal Coordinator for Countdown to Southern Sudan Referendum [http://reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/VDUX-88NTPM?OpenDocument], an awareness campaign organized by The South Sudan Civic Education Organization pressure group, said remarks made by Obeid were likely to jeopardize the ongoing post-referendum discussions initiated by the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC)[ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?mot182] – the body responsible for organizing the task.
The discussions, involving members from both of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), under the mediation of the AU, center on matter including security, oil revenue and Nile water sharing.
“The Information Minister in Khartoum is making a very big mistake. Such a statement is likely to jeopardize post-referendum arrangements and further undermine south Sudan’s preparations for self-determination. We condemn it at all costs,” Lokulenge told Sudan Tribune.
Obeid’s comments came a day after the UN special summit on Sudan, which was held in New York. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudan’s Second Vice President, Osman Taha addressed the summit, also attended by US President, Barrack Obama.
An estimated 500,000 south Sudanese, according to Sudan’s 2008 Housing and Population Census live in the north. However, recent statistics put the figure at nearly 1.5 million, indicating that the southern population has tripled in just two years.
South Sudan president said at the New York meeting on Friday that there are slim chances of unity in the referendum.
"Yes, unity has been given a priority" since the 2005 peace deal, he said, though it was no longer "an attractive option" for the people of southern Sudan.
The deputy speaker of Sudan’s national assembly Atem Garang, who is also a leading figure at the SPLM, told Aljazeera.net website said that the remarks by Obeid are “selfish” ignores the fact that there are six million Northerners sheepherding twenty-five heads of livestock over 1,400 km across the North-South borders.
“The Government of Juba will not treat the North as was promised by the Government of Khartoum to the Southerners but will provide them with a lot of protection, security and a decent living,” Garang said.
He pointed out that what has been announced by Obeid "[shows] evidence that the state of the North will be a failed one and a carrier of the philosophy of revenge, which proves the principle of hatred that we have been fighting against".
Garang also noted that throughout the civil war years, the SPLM has not received none of its POW captured by the Sudanese army.
Mohamed Musa Hareka, a Sudanese political analyst, told Al-Jazeera that the NCP’s new position demonstrates its thinking and ruled out it being a reaction to secessionist calls by Southerners.
Hareka described what was said as the “most horrific political speech currently there is” adding that it will kill any pro-union ideology. He expressed fear that it will lead to a counter effect of deepening hatred.
His peer Tag Al-Sir Mekki echoed Hareka’s views saying that the NCP makes a big mistake by adopting this “internationally unacceptable position”.
This week Human Rights Watch said that authorities in the North and South should pledge not to expel minorities if the South votes to become an independent nation.
“Both southerners in the north and northerners living in Southern Sudan told Human Rights Watch that they feared retaliation, even expulsion, if secession were approved,”
"The two parties to the peace agreement — the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the southern ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) — should state publicly that they will not expel each other’s minorities," it added.