January 24, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has asked the Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM) to agree to an extension of the interim period beyond the July 9th date stipulated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
- A Southern Sudanese flag flutters at sunset on January 15, 2011 (AFP)
The Sudanese cabinet affairs minister Luka Biong was cited by the independent Al-Sahafa daily as saying that the NCP justified the request by saying that they need time to prepare themselves and focus on building a relationship between the North and South.
Biong described the NCP’s position as "contradictory" and inconsistent with reports that the Northern party will seek to immediately dismiss Southerners in the cabinet, parliament and other federal agencies after the referendum results in favor of the South’s secession are officially announced.
First Vice President and South Sudan president Salva Kiir would also lose his position if these changes take effect.
Northern officials say this was to be consistent with Article 226 of the interim constitution which states that provides for eliminating Southern Sudan representation in national government once results are finalized.
But Biong described this interpretation as "narrow visioned".
Early results from the independence vote show that around 99% of Southerners picked the secession option as opposed to unity.
The week-long vote which ended on January 15 was promised under the CPA which ended decades of civil war. The semi-autonomous region leaning toward secession was attributed to ideological and religious differences between the North and South in addition to bitterness fueled by the war years.
Biong suggested that any unilateral decisions by the North could prompt similar action by the South particularly in relation to oil wealth.
Sudan produces some 500,000 barrels per day of oil, but only 100,000-110,000 bpd are from wells in the north. However, the refineries and pipeline infrastructure that carries the oil to export terminals are based in the north. The economy is dependent on oil for some 45 percent of its budget and most of its foreign currency revenues.
The SPLM official warned that the North could lose as much as $2.5 billion between March and July if the NCP goes ahead with decisions aiming at delinking the South from the rest of the country. He stressed that the South will benefit from any such move by getting to keep most of the oil money rather than sharing it with the North.
North and South Sudan have been splitting oil revenues under the wealth-sharing protocol of the CPA.