August 10, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — The former Southern rebels in Sudan warned today that they may resort to unilateral declaration of independence if no agreement is reached with the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) on the referendum law.
- A handout picture released by the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) shows SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) troops (AFP)
The SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum speaking at the party’s headquarters in the Sudanese capital said that the choice of unity versus independence is contingent upon the realization of the “true interests” of Southerners.
Amum accused the NCP of placing “unrealistic” conditions for the referendum to take place.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) stipulates that a referendum is to be held in 2011 by which Southern Sudanese will vote to decide on whether they want to have their own state or remain part of united Sudan.
However, the delay in approving the referendum law casts doubts on whether the process can be held on time.
Among the key sticking points is the percentage of votes required in the referendum to declare it favoring independence, the population allowed to vote, determining the post-referendum process and the share of Sudan’s debts the South would carry with it if it secedes.
The NCP is pushing for a 75% ‘Yes’ vote for South Sudan to be allowed to secede, something the SPLM rejects.
Furthermore, the SPLM rejects the participation of Southerners living outside the South in the referendum
The head of international media at the NCP Abdel-Rahman Al-Zouma told the Qatar based Al-Jazeera Arabic TV that his party wants the referendum to include all Southerners “and not just the SPLM,” saying the latter wants limited participation.
He further said that the secession is a red line for the government accusing Amum of being a separatist.
Mandoor Al-Mahdi, the head of the NCP’s political bureau said that any such move would be a "new rebellion against the constitution" adding that the goverment wll respond accordingly.
In the past, the NCP has said that it interprets CPA as asking both the North and the South to make the separation option more difficult.
Last month the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir warned that the secession of the South “will open the appetite of separatists in any position in the North and South and Africa whose borders were determined by the colonial powers,” adding that unity is in the interest of both sides.
However, Al-Bashir stressed that they want to encourage “voluntary unity”.
The former US State Department special envoy to Sudan Roger Winter has told US lawmakers last week that said that the South may be forced to unilaterally declare independence if the referendum “is frustrated by Khartoum’s actions and/or the hollow commitments of the international community,”.
The US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration had expressed worry that skipping the already delayed 2010 national elections may make it very difficult to hold credible referendum in Abyei and South Sudan in 2011.