October 18, 2010 (JUBA) – The Southern Sudan political parties conference in the region’s capital, Juba, have come out with a united voice and called for timely and transparent conduct of the region’s referendum on independence scheduled for January 9, 2011.
- Leaders of 23 South Sudan political parties hold hands at referendum conference, in regions capital Juba, in sign of unity and reconciliation, 17 Oct. 2010 (James G Dak - ST)
On Sunday, the text of the conference’s resolutions, political parties code of conduct for the referendum and final communique were read out and signed by the leaders and representatives of all the 23 political parties which participated in the convention.
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who is also the chairman of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Two small political parties who were invited failed in sending their representatives to the conference. Southern Sudanese leaders who are members of northern political parties were also invited to the conference.
After the resolutions were read out by the minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development, John Luk Jok, the Vice President and deputy chairman of the SPLM, Riek Machar, who was the chairman of the five-day conference, announced the passing of the resolutions amidst applause, ululations and music.
The gathering committed the parties to achieve reconciliation in the region and commended the decision made by Kiir to pardon all the officers and men in uniform who rebelled against the government before and after April elections.
Kiir has urged them to abandon their rebellion and rejoin the army.
Maj Gen Gabriel Tanginye and Maj Gen Mabor Dhol have taken up Kiir’s call for southern unity ahead of the referendum and joined the SPLM, the former rebels who govern southern Sudan, last week.
Gen George Athor has reportedly responded positively to Kiir’s overtures but did not attend the conference, but sent a delegation to represent him at the closing ceremony of the conference on Sunday.
The conference resolved that if the south voted for untity the region would participate in the Sudan’s constitutional review.
“In the event of a decision of the people of Southern Sudan in the referendum becoming unity, the South [shall] be prepared to effectively participate in the constitutional review process that will follow the referendum in order to safeguard the gains of the South in the new dispensation in the country,” the resolution reads.
If the south votes for separation, then the conference resolved that Southern Sudan’s government would establish a national constitutional review commission to review the current interim constitution of Southern Sudan for adoption by the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) as a transitional constitution.
The parties also decided that an all-party constitutional conference would be convened, in the event of secession, to deliberate and adopt a new constitutional system of an independent and sovereign state.
The purpose of this constitutional conference would be to agree on the formation of an interim broad-based transitional government under the President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), Salva Kiir.
The transitional government shall be charged, among other things, with the duty to conduct fresh population census and general elections for a constituent assembly to vote the transitional constitution into being.
The constitutional conference would also decide on the length of the interim period, necessary to carry out general elections for constituent assembly.
In order to ensure effective implementation of the conference resolutions, a Leadership Consultative Forum was formed under the GoSS President with members from all 23 political parties at the conference.
The chairman of the conference, Riek Machar, on Monday announced that another leadership forum meeting will take place before the conduct of the referendum and another one after the conduct of the referendum.
The conference also stressed the importance of strengthening relations between northern and south Sudan in the event of secession.
President Kiir has said he is committed to implement of all the resolutions passed by the political parties’ conference.
The conference ended with leaders of the political parties taking a group picture as a sign of unity and reconciliation among the political forces.
On Sunday various speakers made closing remarks to the conference.
United Democratic Party - Peter Abdel Rahman Sule
Speaking at the closing ceremony at Nyakuron Cultural Center, Peter Abdel Rahman Sule, a leader of United Democratic Party said he never thought he would one day be granted the honor to address an all southern political parties’ conference, attended by “ legitimate leaders and activists”, on independence of the south Sudan.
“I am very much happy and pleased to openly speak before you today on the future of our people and the region, this is because I never thought I would one day address such a huge gathering on independence of South Sudan,” said Sule.
The veteran politician whose party advocates for separation of the region said the independence of the was “imminent”.
“We in the united Democratic Party remains committed to our principles which call for independence of the south from rest of the regions. We have advocated for this in reference to independence even at the time when it was difficult to speak about it and we never stopped talking about it until this peace was signed. It must be implemented to the letter”, he said.
“We must go, there is nothing which can stop us from going if we are determined as all signs indicate,” he said, reiterating that he was pleased to see the whole region speaking with “one voice.”
SPLM-DC - Lam Akol Ajawin
Lam Akol Ajawin, leader of Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) a breakaway group from the SPLM, commended conduct and high participation rate at the conference.
Akol’s, comments on the opening day of the conference called for amendment of the referendum law to postpone the referendum date from 9 of January 2011 to a date which would be recommended by the referendum commission.
But in his concluding statement Akol appeared to have sidelined his suggestion, pledging to work for independence of the region in the upcoming referendum vote.
“If there are people who still doubt that I will work against interest of the people of southern Sudan, they must know now it that our differences have been resolved by this conference,” he said
“Of course there are times in the past when all of us went out of control because of lack of regular dialogue,” said Akol amid waiving voices calling for independence of south Sudan.
The former Sudanese Foreign Minister called on political leaders to conduct similar reconciliation meetings throughout the south so that ordinary people were kept up-to–date with political developments and agreements.
“As our differences have been resolved by this conference, we must forget the past and open another chapter and begin to work together as block for common interest of our people and the region. It is when we work as block and not as individuals and parties that we can able to achieve common objective," said Akol.
“We must extend such initiatives on reconciliation and peace building to the grass root level. They must not be allowed to remain here. We must communicate them to our people by all means possible,” he said.
Akol also declared to the conference that political differences between him and president of the semi-autonomous regional government of southern Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, had been resolved.
“At personal level, I must tell you that I still do not hold political differences with our president anymore. We have resolved them,” said Akol.
Akol who in April fought a bitter election campaign against the SPLM described President Kiir as a brother.
“When president sent me an invitation, I readily responded to it because he is a brother whom we have done a lot of things together,” he said.
South Sudan Democractic Forum - Bona Malwal Madut Riing
Bona Malwal Madut Riing, an adviser to the president of the republic of Sudan, who spoke on behalf of an elderly people and long serving politicians also appeared resigned from being an ardent critic of the regional government of southern Sudan.
He said that his party, the South Sudan Democractic Forum had intentionally made deliberations difficult at the start of the conference because they wanted a meaningful debate.
“We made deliberations difficult because we had wanted them to be meaningful at the end of the conference,” said Malwal.
He said that the conference indicated that south Sudan was determined to separate from the north and become a new nation.
“Having been one of the participants from the initial day, I must admit that our people are fully prepared and determined to go come what may come,” said Malwal.