Home | News    Thursday 19 August 2010

SPLM’s politburo rejects referendum delay

19 August, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling party in the semi-autonomous region of south Sudan has reiterated rejection to delay a plebiscite on the region’s possible independence from the Arab-dominated north Sudan in January 2011.

The final communiqué of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) politburo meeting in Juba, August 13 - 16, declared that, “there shall be no retreat from holding the referendum as scheduled on January 9, 2011.”

The South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), which is tasked with organizing the exercise, has been deadlocked over the appointment of a secretary-general.

On March 15, the SSRC’s chairman, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, threatened to resign, saying that the southern members of the commission were voting as a block to prevent any northerner from taking the disputed post.

The SPLM has long accused its ruling partner in north Sudan, the National Congress Party (NCP), of stonewalling them on referendum issues.

According to the text of the communiqué received by Sudan Tribune, the meeting discussed the status of the implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the name given to the peace deal that ended two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan in 2005. Particular focus was given to the south Sudan and Abyei referenda as well as the popular consultations taking place in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states on the north-south border.

The statement said that the 27-strong politburo received briefings from the SPLM chairman, Salva Kiir (who is the President of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan - GoSS), and the SPLM’s secretary-general Pagan Amum.

On the issue of media campaigning in the run-up to the referendum, the SPLM called for state media to give equal access to both the opponents and proponents of unity. They also committed the GoSS to allow the supporters of both choices to campaign freely and without intimidation.

“The SSRC and all levels of government in the country ought to guarantee absolute freedom to those campaigning for either choice (unity or separation) to express their views in accordance with the agreement and the referendum law,” said the communiqué. It further warned that “any attempt to prevent Sudanese citizens from campaigning for the choice they consider best for them shall not result in a vote that is free, fair and transparent.”

On the situation in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, the communiqué expressed serious concern over the NCP’s procrastination to enforce last years’ ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the region’s boundaries, ongoing efforts by the NCP to alter Abyei’s demographic makeup resettling Al-Missiyray tribes in the region, as well as the unreasonable delay in the formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission (ARC).

“These attempts” added the statement “indicate an intention by some quarters to preclude the conduct of Abyei referendum.”

The SPLM’s statement reaffirmed the SPLM’s desire to continue talks with the NCP on post-referendum issues despite the latter’s reluctance to discuss matters pertaining to changes in the system of governance in Sudan should southerners vote to confirm the unity of Sudan. The former guerrilla movement said it had always stood for Sudan’s unity but added the NCP’s “desire to entrench a theocratic and undemocratic state” as well as its “unconstitutional” practices have thwarted the model of unity advocated by the SPLM.

“The SPLM has distanced itself from unconstitutional practices that the government in Khartoum, of which the SPLM is a member, has carried out against the local press, journalists, doctors and political leaders” said the statement.

“These practices do not reflect the democratic transformation enshrined in the CPA or provide a lasting solution to the root causes of the crises in Sudan’s turbulent peripheries or attract south Sudan people to be part of a state that does not respect its constitution and perforce treat them as second or fourth class citizens.”

The SPLM’s statement cited the issue of the Khartoum-destined helicopter captured on August 10 by south Sudan’s authorities with rebels on board affiliated to Gorge Athor, the renegade SPLA general who launched a rebellion against south Sudan’s government, as an evidence of Khartoum’s “dark schemes against the South.”

The politburo enjoined that those captured on board be brought to trial and further decided to inform the guarantors of the CPA including UN chief, IGAD, African Union, European Union, Arab League of the incident saying it constitutes a "breaching of the ceasefire agreement" signed between the SPLA and the Sudan Armed Forces.