July 1, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese First Vice President and President of South Sudan Salva Kiir and 2nd Vice president Ali Osman Taha today attended the signing ceremony for several development projects contracts as part of a push by the ruling party to make unity attractive.
The contract was signed by the Unity Support Fund (USF) and the companies awarded the projects to execute. The representative of the companies pledged to fulfill their obligations within the next six months including schools and universities in addition to other projects for provision of water services and establishment of railways and river transport passages.
Taha said that costs of these projects add up to $200 million, 89% of which would be paid by the federal government and 11 percent by the Government of South Sudan (GoSS).
A referendum for self determination will take place early next year as a key provision of a 2005 peace deal which ended a decades-long war between north and south Sudan, a conflict which left two million people dead.
The people of South Sudan will choose whether to remain part of a united Sudan or establish their own state. Most analysts expect an overwhelming choice for independence given bitterness left by the war and deep rooted suspicion by Southerners towards the Arab-Muslim dominated North.
The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) declared following his overwhelming win in last April’s elections that it will focus on making the choice of unity attractive in the remaining eight months prior to the vote. However, the NCP rejected calls by the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), the dominant party in the South, for abrogation of Islamic Shari’a law in the country in order to give unity a chance in the mind of Southerners.
NCP officials have suggested that they will seek to carry out as many development projects as possible for Southerners to see the fruits of remaining within a united state. Many countries in the region as well as the African Union and European Union appear reluctant to see Sudan break up into two.
"We have made advanced strides towards the implementation of all items of the comprehensive peace agreement, and with the formation of the referendum commission, we enter the final stage in the transitional period program," Xinhua news agency quoted Taha as saying when addressing a joint meeting of the federal government and GoSS.
"It is important that the southern Sudanese citizens feel the value of peace through provision of services for them and improvement of their living conditions," he said.
Taha also expressed disappointment at the international community for failing to follow through on their pledges to provide the necessary support for the development and rehabilitation programs in south Sudan.
"The response of the donor international community was very weak, which is disappointing. We have relied on our self-resources to implement many of the projects and we will carry on in this respect," he said.
Topping the agenda of Taha and Southern officials is the option of confederation between the North and South in lieu of secession, a compromise which could bring relief to many regional and international actors.
The idea of a confederation has floated in the past during North-South peace negotiations but has quickly died. The confederation model entails a system where two countries achieve a high degree of autonomy while maintaining a minimal central authority in areas such as trade, defense and foreign policy.
Many post-referendum issues have yet to be addressed particularly nationality, national debt, water agreement with the border demarcation process well behind schedule.