September 17, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The First Vice President of Sudan and the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir today suggested that maintaining the unity of the country is increasingly appearing to be an unrealistic outcome after the 2011 referendum.
Southern Sudan will hold a referendum on January 9 to decide if it would declare independence or remain with the rest of Sudan.
A second referendum is expected to be held in Abyei which would choose between the north and south.
The referendums are part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) accord which ended a 22-year-long civil war in which an estimated two million people died.
"At the moment all signs point to the fact that on January 9, 2011 Southern Sudanese people will vote overwhelmingly for their own independence," Kiir told an audience at the Washington Convention Center in the U.S capital.
Kiir accused his former rivals at the National Congress Party (NCP) of dragging its feet on the referendum process and warned that the January 9th date must be honored under any circumstances saying the timing is “sacrosanct”.
The Southern leader called on the international community to make clear "that no disruption or delay to these referenda can be tolerated” adding that recurrence of war and violence is likely should a postponement occur.
"There is without question a real risk of a return to violence on a massive scale if the referenda do not go ahead as scheduled," he said.
"The weight of our history, the depths of our peoples’ suffering and corresponding expectations, the promises of their leaders both in the North and South, and the guarantees of the international community create no space for wavering on this," Kiir added.
The South Sudan referendum commission is well behind schedule on preparing for the plebiscite and doubts have been casted over whether the voter registration process can take place as planned in October.
This delay was caused primarily by the standoff between the North and South over the referendum law and then the composition of the commission.
Furthermore, many post-referendum arrangements have yet to be ironed out particularly border demarcation, oil sharing, citizenship, national debts and water.
Kiir expressed concern over calls that the South must concede some of the oil it is producing to the North for it to gain its independence.
"There are rising calls that the South must make accommodations and compromises if it expects the North to accept its independence," Kiir said, adding that he was troubled by the notion that the South would have to "buy its freedom" by surrendering its oil rights.
Currently the North and South split oil revenues of the crude produced in the South.
This week the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the North has fears over losing control over the South oil fields.
"Even if we did everything perfectly ... the reality is that this is going to be a very hard decision for the north to accept," Clinton said.
"So we’ve got to figure out some ways to make it worth their while to peacefully accept an independent south and for the south to recognize that unless they want more years of warfare and no chance to build their own new state they’ve got to make some accommodations with the north as well" she added.
"What happens to the oil revenues?" she said. "And if you’re in the north and all of a sudden you think a line’s going to be drawn and you’re going to lose 80 percent of the oil revenues, you’re not a very enthusiastic participant. What are the deals that can possibly be made that will limit the potential of violence?"
Kiir said his government was working out final details on finding a mutually acceptable formula on how the North and South Sudan will split the country’s oil revenues. He urged the world and the U.S. in particular to take a leadership role in facilitating the negotiations.
U.S. President Barack Obama will join other world leaders at a U.N. summit on Sudan next week in a sign of mounting concern that the January vote could reopen a 20-year conflict responsible for 2 million deaths, mostly from hunger and disease.
The United States has intensified its diplomatic engagement with both sides, and this week offered South Sudan and the northern government in Khartoum a new package of incentives to reach a deal, balanced by the threat of new punitive measures including sanctions if progress stalls.
Kiir is not expected to meet with any senior U.S. official during his visit as he was not offered any such summit according to Rep. Donald Payne who delivered opening remarks at the convention.
The South Sudan president urged the world to accept the referendum outcome despite any possible flaws that may emerge,
"Southern Sudan is not like Switzerland," Kiir said. "It is not realistic to demand perfection."
In Cairo, the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti dismissed talk of possible war irrespective of the sticking negotiating issues between the North and South.