Home | News    Tuesday 8 March 2011

North and South Sudan disengage institutions to form two independent states

March 7, 2011 (JUBA) – The two governments of North and South Sudan have begun the process of disengaging national institutions to form two separate independent countries, following the overwhelming vote for independence by the people of South Sudan in January’s referendum.

The self-determination plebiscite, which was a core provision in the peace deal signed in 2005 between the Sudan government, led by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), and the former rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), has resulted to the split of Africa’s largest country into two independent states. The two parties fought a bitter civil war for 15 years of the 21 year civil war – the NCP came to power in a 1989 coup six years after the war began.

The region will formally become independent on July 9, 2011 according to the timetable set in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Since 2005 the South has governed itself with its own government led by the SPLM.

Officials from both North and South have acknowledged that South Sudan is already an independent state after the popular vote in January. July 9 is said to only mark the end of disengagement process of the two governments and witness the formal announcement of Africa’s 54th state.

Sudan’s president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir issued a presidential decree in February recognizing the independence vote of South Sudan and requested the leadership in Juba to avail a piece of land in the capital on which to build an embassy for the Khartoum government.

"South Sudan is already an independent state by the vote of the people,” South Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar said Saturday, who further explained that what had remained were mere formalities to July 9’s announcement of the new state.

Before July there are many issues that need to be resolved, most prominent of which is the contested border region of Abyei on the North-South border. The oil-producing region was supposed hold its own referendum in January to decide whether it would stay as part of Sorth Kordofan, north of the border, or join the South.

Abyei’s population predominantly consists of Dinka Ngok who are aligned the South. The Dinka are the largest ethnic group in the South and were expected to vote to join the South if the referendum had gone ahead.

However, the plebiscite did not take place as the SPLM refused the NCP’s demand to let the cattle herding Misseriya – an Arab tribe largely aligned the NCP - to take part in the vote. In the run up, during and after the referendum sporadic clashes in Abyei have left scores dead with tensions rising due to the failure of the referendum to materialize. Matters have been made worse as this is the time of year when seasonally the Misseriya enter the region to find water and pasture for their cattle.

In addition to the issue of Abyei, there are other post-referendum issues, which President Bashir refers to describe as post-independence issues, which the two parties have to hammer out. Most of Sudan’s known oil fields lie in the South but the pipelines, transport routes and refineries lie in the North so southern oil will continue to be exported through Port Sudan – at least until a new pipeline is built to Kenya.

The two parties to the CPA also have to finalize the North-South border; agree on a formula for sharing national assets and debt; water access; international treaties and agreements; and the future of the Sudanese Pound.

Initiating the disengagement process, Khartoum has already begun recalling SPLM and South Sudanese ambassadors who represent Sudan abroad saying that the presence has become irrelevant after the independence vote.
The Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) started in February to send its personnel to the South and North depending on their origin. A similar process is expected to occur for the civil service.

The Joint Integrated Units (JIUs), a military force set up by CPA from armies of the North and South, have also begun to disintegrate and rejoin their respective mother armies after a thorny relationship over the six years period of the peace deal. JIU’s were established to serve as a nucleus for a future national army of Sudan in the eventuality that the South voted to keep Sudan united.

Last month, Khartoum dismissed all the South Sudanese members of the Sudan’s legislative body, the National Assembly, saying they will no longer qualify to join the assembly when the parliament reopens, after recess, in April. Now the Southern representatives have left the parliament is in the almost total control of the NCP.

Machar, who chairs the government’s taskforce which is also charged with the responsibility to prepare the emerging independent state, held a series of meetings with government officials, representatives of the United Nations and international partners on the disengagement process on Saturday.

He said his government had considered calling all the dismissed members of the national parliament to Juba the seat of the government of South Sudan. Machar said the interim constitution of South Sudan, which is currently under amendment in preparation for independence would provide for their reintegration. One of the immediate options he said, would be to consider widening the size of the present membership of parliament in order to accommodate them.

The Vice President also said a further arrangement could be made on the fate of the executive and other national organs in Khartoum. He explained that only the Presidency, including the First Vice President Salva Kiir, who is also the President of South Sudan, and few key South Sudanese ministers would remain in Khartoum until July 9.

Machar has directed the minister of Human Resource Development, Mary Jervis, to provide comprehensive data on all the South Sudanese civil servants currently working in all the 15 states in the north.

On Saturday, the vice president and a number of ministers including the minister in the office of the president, Cirino Hiteng, minister of labor and public service, Awut Deng Acuil, and state minister in the office of the president in Khartoum, Wek Mamer, discussed plans on repatriation of the South Sudanese civil servants from the North before July 9.

Machar also directed the relevant ministers of labor and public service and of human resources development to provide information that will guide the government’s plans on reintegrating into South Sudan’s civil service the incoming civil servants from the north.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese officials in the civil service are expected to be repatriated from the north’s national institutions.

Without a viable private sector in South Sudan to employ some of the returning civil servants, the vice president acknowledged that retraining some of them in English language and finding them the right positions in the government will be challenging.

Arabic and English are Sudan’s official languages under the interim constitution. It is unclear whether the South, which has a strong Christian and African identity will keep Arabic as an official language.

Indications from Khartoum show that English may be removed as an official language of the predominantly Islamic north. President Bashir who leads the pro-Arab Islamist NCP has said that after the South secedes there will be no diversity in the North.