Counting the seconds...pro-independence campaign material, 2nd September 2010
Time is rapidly running out to organize the many steps for the southern referendum, with registration already far behind time.
A secretary-general for the southern referendum commission has at last been appointed
- a northerner. The much needed progress on the commission may now at last start to move forward.
But the logistical challenges are huge: international experts overseeing the referendum process have pared down the timetable needed to prepare registration materials, do the registration, prepare the ballots, and all the other accompanying steps.
They warn that if considerable movement is not seen in the next two weeks, it will become impossible in the time left to provide a vote that is even half credible.
Southern officials have a real fear that even the smallest complaint of failure in the the referendum process will provide the fuel for the northern National Congress Party to reject the expected result of secession.
We should be talking about 'referenda' too: Abyei's referendum has dropped off the agenda, although it is due to hold its own vote on the same day as the south. The area remains volatile, and tensions are high there.
Without settlement in Abyei, the whole process may stumble. (And too the popular consultation processes in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, also key parts of the CPA peace deal, which are largely forgotten outside the respective areas, subsumed by the enormous referendum focus).
The International Crisis Group
have issued the latest of several to warn on the high military build up and tensions along the north south border. The referendum is the
pinnacle of the CPA, and one of the most important dates for Sudan as a state for the past century.
Southern officials are adamant the date cannot be shifted from 9th January: they do not want it to be, but they say they also fear the reaction from the people if it has to be moved for logistical reasons. They will not be able to control the people on the street, they warn.
Those on the streets say everyone has known the vote has been coming for six years, and will take no excuse for delay.
They quote "too many agreements dishonoured", the title of the book by veteran southern politician Abdel Alier. This, the southerners say, is their one chance, and they will not let it slip away.
Much to do, little time to do it in, and absurdly high stakes.
Presidents Salva Kiir and Omar al Bashir, Juba.
L-R: Pagan Amum (SPLM), Thabo Mbeki (AU), Idris Abdelgadir (NCP)
Top leaders from the northern NCP and southern SPLM have committed themselves to work towards a "sustainable peace" in negotiations for the post-referendum arrangements for the upcoming 9th January 2011 vote.
Negotiations, according to a set of "guiding principles" will be "informed by a shared belief in a prosperous future of all Sudanese people, rather than burdened by a difficult past."
Reporters were briefly ushered in and out, but the atmosphere seemed friendly.
It always does.
Promises are easy, and few, however, expect the negotiations to be easy.
There are already rumbles that some demand full border demarcation between north and south - a massive task already very far behind schedule - before a referendum vote can go ahead.
(Sudan's oil reserves lie largely in the south, but key oil areas are contested, lying along the border zones.)
Southerners are clear that is not necessary, and if it has too, can happen after Nothing, they say, will delay the referendum.
Southern internal affairs minister Gier Chaung
said that there will be no budging ("no plus, no minus") on that key date, six years since the peace deal that ended the civil war was signed.
The real work beings on 27th July, when the teams break into smaller groups to discuss thorny issues: wealth sharing of oil and other resources as well as questions of nationality and citizenship, should the south choose independence.
Signing the guiding principles, Juba, July 2010
The full story run on the AFP wire is here.
Sudan ex-foes commit to peace for southern referendum
JUBA, Sudan, July 20, 2010 (AFP) – Former enemies from north and south Sudan committed themselves on Tuesday to work for "sustainable peace" during negotiations for a referendum on potential independence for the south.
Top leaders signed a document of "guiding principles" for the negotiations, to ensure they are "informed by a shared belief in a prosperous future of all Sudanese people, rather than burdened by a difficult past."
The National Congress Party (NCP) of Sudanese president Omar al Beshir and the former rebel Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) which rules in the south, are negotiating on key outstanding issues for the referendum.
These include wealth sharing of oil and other resources as well as questions of nationality and citizenship, should the south choose independence.
"The parties recommit themselves to the holding of the referendum on self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan on the 9 January 2011, and to respect the choice of the people," the document read, signed in the southern capital Juba.
South Sudan is still recovering from a 22-year civil war with the north during which about two million people were killed, in a conflict fuelled by religion, ethnicity, ideology and resources like oil.
The referendum was set up under a 2005 peace deal, which promised the south the chance to choose independence or to r remain within a united Sudan.
Several analysts have warned of the risk of war if the negotiations stumble, with concern growing that sticking points can be resolved in time.
However, Pagan Amum, who signed the document on behalf of the SPLM, said it would ensure negotiations worked towards creating a "permanent peace, and establish good relations between the south and the north."
One of the NCP representatives, Mutif Siddiq, said the deal would "make the outcome of the referendum -- regardless of the vote -- a peaceful one."
The document was witnessed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the discussions as part of an African Union panel.
"This essentially marks the beginning of post-referendum negotiations, " said Mbeki, following the signing.
"It indicates the commitment by all the negotiators to attend to all of these matters with necessary seriousness and the urgency that is required."
Talks will resume on July 27, with separate groups focusing on four specific areas including economic and resource management, citizenship, security and international treaties, Mbeki said.
Sudanese bishops on a visit to the United States sign off a public letter with a nod towards a certain "bold declaration made by a young nation with the full knowledge that this declaration would be questioned and violently opposed."
It's the Declaration of Independence 1776 style, of course.
The Catholic bishops ask whether Sudan should remain united, or quoting that document, if it has now "become 'necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them."Read the letter here, posted by John Ashworth
The south's ruling SPLM
have been coy to campaign openly for secession of the south, despite many in the party counting down the days until they believe it will happen.
Under the 2005 peace agreement, they cannot openly endorse independence. Instead, they should work to ensure the people have a free and fair choice when the vote takes place.
Not so the church.
on Tuesday in Juba of the Sudanese Religious Leaders Referendum Initiative saw bishops from eight key churches openly support an independent south - and say that their priests will "use the pulpit" to broadcast this message. "Our joint position is to lead the people to the independent south Sudan," Bishop Paul Yugusuk of the Episcopal Church said at a press conference to launch the group.
The group's Old Testament slogan is: "Let my people go".
"We have seen that the way to unity is destructive, but that the way to secession is better for the people of southern Sudan," said Yugusuk.
Muslim leaders were also present, and the bishops invited more to join. With the SPLM unable to campaign openly, the group may be key in broadcasting a message of independence.
Criticism the church should not be involved in politics were brushed aside.
"We don’t need to get permission from the government to lead our people to the promised land, but we will walk together with them," added Yugusuk.
Bishops launch referendum initiative, 13 July, 2010
Read more here.
Meanwhile a report by 24 aid agencies and pressure groups have warned in a 14th July report
that " inadequate planning is harming the chance of credible referenda" in the south and in the border region of Abyei.
Amongst many recommendations, it also wants all African heads of state at the AU meeting later in July to pledge support for the right of Southern Sudanese to self-determination - and to recognize the outcome of a free and fair vote.