September 28, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Monday warned that it will not recognize the outcome of the South Sudan referendum, scheduled to take place early next year, unless certain conditions are met.
The Sudanese Youth and Sports minister Haj Magid Siwar, who is also the mobilization secretary at the NCP, speaking at a press conference in Khartoum slammed the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) saying that it was never serious about the option of unity.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the SPLM & NCP stipulates that both sides would work to make unity attractive.
However, ever since the accord was sealed both sides traded accusations over the failure to promote unity among Southerners.
Southern Sudan, which is predominantly animist and Christian, is scheduled to vote on independence Jan. 9, but preparations for the vote are badly behind schedule.
The referendum commission is set to start voter registration in mid-October, a process likely to be contentious as officials decide who is eligible to vote.
Another referendum will take place simultaneously in the contested oil-rich region of Abyei, where residents will have to decide whether they want to be part of north or south Sudan.
The composition of Abyei’s referendum commission has not yet been revealed.
Furthermore, many post-referendum arrangements have yet to be ironed out particularly border demarcation, oil sharing, citizenship, national debts and water.
The NCP insists that unless border demarcation is complete, no referendum will take place.
The international community is worried that both sides may resort to war should there be a delay in referendum which some observers described as a strong possibility given the tight timeframe.
At today’s press conference, Siwar pointed fingers at the SPLM saying they have not fully implemented the security clauses in the CPA.
"The SPLA did not implement but 26% of the security arrangements as opposed to the [Northern] army that implemented it at a 100%," Siwar said, adding that this is a threat to the referendum and a breach of the agreement.
Southern army spokesman Kuol Deim Kuol dismissed the accusations as "baseless".
"Why do they turn up with this statement at this time? ... This is someone who is looking for a pretext of starting the fight. This makes us conclude that the NCP and their SAF (the northern army) have preparations to reoccupy the south," he told Reuters.
"According to our intelligence estimates, there are seven (northern) divisions dotted along the border," he added. "We have been expecting that by October they will do something." Each division, he said, amounted to around 10,000 men.
A northern army spokesman denied his forces had any aggressive intentions against the south. "This is absolutely wrong and there is no evidence," he said.
The hard-line NCP official stressed that for the NCP to recognize the referendum certain conditions must be met including the redeployment of SPLA to the 1956 borders and excluding the Southern army from the plebiscite operations to avoid appearance of interference in its conduct.
"In the presence of the SPLA, Southerners will vote under threat of arms," Siwar said.
According to Siwar, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) must allow campaigning for unity in the semi-autonomous region.
GoSS president Salva Kiir has promised recently that authorities in South will not stop any party from expressing its support for unity.
"There is no freedom of [speech] in the south or for any movement to speak out for unity. Many people have been arrested and some of them were even killed," Siwar said.
Yesterday, the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti accused the SPLM of harassing and intimidating any Southerner who opposes secession.
Siwar warned the international community to maintain impartiality with regard to the referendum outcome and also called on it to fulfill its financial pledges made during Oslo donors conference.
"The international community must [continue to] meet its obligations despite the delay to address some of the negative aspects , and we also ask them for neutrality and commitment to what was signed in the peace agreement," he said.
He described recent U.S. remarks as supportive of South Sudan secession saying this amounts to interference in internal affairs of the country.
Asked what the NCP would do if the southerners did not allow open campaigning and move their troops, he said: "We will talk to ... the USA and the U.N. and the AU (African Union) and say that the other side, they didn’t fulfil the CPA, so we may not recognise the results."
Sudan’s 2nd VP Ali Osman Taha and the president of the semi-autonomous south, Salva Kiir, vowed last week to work for peace as U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders pressured them to hold a planned referendum on southern independence, scheduled for Jan. 9, peacefully and on time.