Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 14 August 2010

Will Referenda actually be held in South as scheduled?


By Roba Gibia

August 12, 2010 – Since signing Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 its implementation has not been easy, especially after demise of Dr. John Garang de Mabior on July 30, 2005 in plane crash, has added more oil to the fire and has experienced lots of stalemates, divergence and has been selective with deliberate delays and squabbles due to the profound lack of trust and confidence between south and north. Thus, the timely implementation of peace modalities continued to leg behind the schedule, for instance Abyei administration was formed after more than three years and both parties failed to implement Abyei Protocol till it was referred and ruled by international arbitration in Hague. Not that only but Sudan’s fifth census was not conducted as scheduled due to the disagreement between the two parties, delay in procedural formalities and conflicting statements here and there about the inclusion of tribe and religion in census form, which led to the postponement of census till it was poorly carried out in 2009 and consequently pushed general elections from its original schedule at end of the third year of the interim period to April 2010! This is the situation in Sudan where you can expect anything to occur and at any time, and has it not to be steadfastness and resolve of SPLM, IGAD and international community, Naivasha peace agreement should have followed same fate of Addis Ababa accord.

Therefore, squabbling, delaying tactics and continued row over peace implementation that led to the suspension of SPLM Ministers to Government of National Unity and postponement of Sudan’s fifth census and general elections, is now befalling and prevailing between the two parties SPLM and NCP while referenda left with only four months to go! And now the question is will referenda actually be held in South Sudan as scheduled on January 9, 2011, taking into the consideration that the registration has not yet commenced and Abyei’s referendum commission is yet to be formed, and there are already voices here and there hinting for the postponement of referenda in south till April 2011 or even beyond. Hence, at this context, I would like to urge SPLM leadership to swiftly step-in and make its position crystal clear to its partner NCP at the lieu of this controversy, and avoid dreadful consequences that would suddenly demoralize people of Southern Sudan, whose morals at this juncture are towering and remained confident that they are going to say their decisive and long awaited say on January 9, 2011, in which I believe is ground zero for starting Sudan’s new history. Beside that south Sudanese people perceive January 9, 2011 as red line which must not be bypassed or skipped, but should it be glorified or south may let it go around like the census and elections which were carried out during the lost time!

I wish I could be wrong in my prophecy based on continuous experience with Khartoum’s government behavior but the current unfolding events indicate clearly that people of south Sudan has to be prepared mentally and morally to receive postponement of referenda news with sport spirit. And this is exactly what is going to happen within couples of coming weeks despite the fact that the referendum commission said that it has got no intention to submit a request to the president to delay the referenda in southern Sudan. But Tarek Osman Al-Tahir a member of referendum commission requested delay to achieve completion of voters’ registration prior to three months from the referenda date. He went on saying that we have two options left, either to skip some of procedures which would not be accepted because it will impact negatively approval of referenda results or request a restricted delay to referendum to finalize some procedural formalities. And this is precisely what am I fearing because once you agree to delay the referenda, it could be delayed for second and third time just as it was with census. Bearing in mind that referendum commission is still preparing referenda budget, and you do not know when it will be approved, because referenda can not be held without voters’ registration, completion of procedures and budget in which they (NCP) has placed credible and logic reasons to delay the referenda, and at this juncture you are smartly cornered and have no option but to concur and give in. I am not in favor of delaying referenda but the current readings and indications from NCP side do prove undoubtedly that referenda will not be held on January 9, 2011 as scheduled.

Hence, and according to some analysts NCP is determined to jeopardize and ring referenda in favor of unity under any circumstances, fearing that other northern political parties and history will hold them (NCP) accountable for the separation of south, and above all NCP and northern political parties do not want oil rich south to break away from north. Thus, I would like to urge NCP that this is ridiculous notion as Pagan Amum said in Cairo on August 5, 2010 that even though if south secedes, it will not be cut by scissors with all its zigzags and aloof to be part of Latin America, but south and north will occupy its same physical and natural position in Africa and be neighbors with north because both have common and mutual interests. Thus, I believe all of us were aware about the challenges of secession and unity, and in either circumstance it needs to not be imposed but let the people choose between these two options without harassment and intimidation. And this is evident in the view of Al-Tayib Mustafa, leader of Just Peace Forum when he argued that separation between the North and Southern Sudan could be a best option given what has happened over the past 40 years. He elucidated his position by saying that "we shouldn’t be prisoners for this emotional look; the result of this forced unity over 40 years is pain, death and distrust". Mr. Mustafa wondered, "Why do not we (north) let the Northerners practice their self-determination right and therefore secede from the South … why are we (Northerners) deprived from our right in unity"! And in my view this statement can be reserved … why are we (Southerners) deprived from our right in unity! Therefore, Al-Tayib Mustafa deliberately by turning deaf ear and blind eye to the Khartoum’s vicious war crimes against south over 50 years, trying to fault Southerners for enforcing themselves into unity with north over the past 50 years! And hypothetically if that is the case over 50 years, Southerners have realized today the perilous consequences of forced unity which is pain, death and distrust and wanted to secede, then why all this row and trepidation today about the unity of Sudan, and why not to let south go peacefully without causing havoc at their midst and even without delaying referenda for one day!

The author is a Sudan Tribune journalist he can be reached at robagibia@yahoo.com


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