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Sudanese government endorses two more states in Darfur

March 7, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese government endorsed today the creation of two new administrative entities in the restive region of Darfur increasing the number of states to five.

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An elderly Sudanese refugee man waits his turn to vote at a polling statio, unseen, at the refugee camp of Zamzam during the general election held in April 2010 (AP)

The decision comes days, after the announcement of a referendum on the administrative status of the region made by the presidential adviser in charge of Darfur file, Gahzi Salah Al-Deen.

The High-Level Committee for Darfur follow-up in a meeting chaired by the President Omer Al-Bashir adopted a recommendation to establish two more states in Darfur.

The proposal was submitted by a commission formed by the Sudanese president after a recommendation to consider the issue by the Sudan’s people Initiative Conference held in October 2008 to discuss ways to end Darfur conflict in Kenana, White Nile state.

At the conference, two propositions were formulated by some participants to establish Bahr Al-Arab state in south east Darfur with Al-Deiyan as capital. The second state is Jebel Marra in central Darfur and Zalingei designated as capital.

The idea of two new states raised controversy over the timing of the creation of the two states as the conflict is not yet settled. Also criticism went to the high cost of two new regional administrations besides what is termed "ethnic criteria" as Bahr El Arab will encompass areas inhabited by Arab tribes in southern Darfur and Jebel Marra will be mainly established in the mountainous areas peopled by the Fur tribe.

Following the meeting, Ghazi said that the proposal was adopted because it represents "the will of the people of Darfur".

He further said the meeting discussed the organization of a referendum on Darfur status as it is part of Abuja peace agreement signed with the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi.

"There is a legal obligation to hold the referendum in April, as stipulated in the agreement" He said. In accordance to the 2006 peace agreement a referendum on Darfur status is to be held one year after the general election.

He further underscored that the government has to implement Abuja agreement unless it is amended or abrogated by another deal.

He said that they consider there is no conflict between the referendum on the status of the region and the two new states as both have different tracks.

Last week the presidential adviser was in Doha where he sought to convince the mediation to settle the talks before the 15 of March.

Darfur rebels accused the Sudanese official of trying to undermine the Doha peace process, but the government’s top negotiator Amin Hassan Omer reassured the mediation that his they are committed to discuss the administrative status with the rebel groups.