July 28, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said that Southern Sudanese would be better off picking unity over independence in the upcoming self-determination referendum.
- Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi meets local school children during a break in the African Union Summit meeting in Uganda’s capital Kampala July 26, 2010 (Reuters)
The January 9, 2011 referendum will decide whether to grant independence for south Sudan and allow the oil-rich Abyei frontier region to fasten itself to the Muslim north or the Christian and animist south.
Many regional and international players privately say that South Sudan will be better off staying with the North over concerns that the already semi-autonomous region would not be able to sustain itself particularly in terms of security should it become fully independent.
Gaddafi, who was one of the main backers of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) since its creation in the early eighties, appealed to Southerners to remain united with the North.
"As for south Sudan, the matter depends on referendum, even though I advice brothers in the south to stay with the great Sudan instead of a dwarf country in the south" Gaddafi was quoted as saying by the Libyan state run news agency (JANA) during a special hosting at "Peace Studio" of the African Peace & Security Council in Kampala.
A year ago, South Sudan president who is also SPLM chairman Salva Kiir disclosed that he had secured a promise from Gaddafi to support southern Sudan independence.
According to Kiir, the Libyan leader informed him that if Southerners vote for independence “they shouldn’t be frightened of anybody” saying that he “will stand with them”.
Furthermore he quoted Gaddafi as saying that the British colonial power made a mistake when they allowed South Sudan to be part of the North when the country gained its independence in January 1956.
“[Gaddafi said] they should have been separated either to become an independent state or join any country in east Africa,” Kiir said.
A month later, Gaddafi reiterated in a meeting with the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Khalil Ibrahim that he would support the independence of South Sudan if its citizens decide so in the 2011 referendum but warned that it will become a "very weak state."
The remarks drew outcry in Khartoum but Libyan embassy officials sought to downplay their significance.