Al Jazeera & Nonviolent PeaceForce – 2011-01-08 00:37:51
(January 7, 2011) — Sudan’s president has warned that south Sudan would struggle as an independent nation were it to vote to secede from the north. Speaking just days before a referendum, which is expected to see southerners vote to establish a separate country, Omar al-Bashir told Al Jazeera that he was concerned about possible instability in the south following the vote.
“The stability of the south is very important to us because any instability in the south will have an impact on the north. If there is a war in your neighbour’s house, you will not be at peace,” he said on Friday.
“The south suffers from many problems. It’s been at war since 1959. The south does not have the ability to provide for its citizens or create a state or authority.”
The referendum is a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005, that ended near three decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.
Under the terms of the CPA, a quorum of 60 per cent of the 3.8 million voters are required to take part in the referendum for its outcome to become binding, but most believe the south will be in favour of succession.
The mood in Juba, south Sudan’s capital, and elsewhere was jubilant on Friday as the final pro-secession rallies were held with many apparently already celebrating independence.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, al-Bashir suggested the south’s desire for independence was understandable, but was far from being a cure-all.
“Most southerners are separatists because the south has been at war for a long time and this war has affected every southern citizen in a very negative way,” al-Bashir said. “It has either caused them to become refugees or be harmed in some way … They believe that the cause of all this suffering is that the south is under the control of the north and they think that they can only end this suffering by separating the north from the south.”
Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region, has earned rare praise from the United Nations Security Council for his stance on the referendum.
In recent weeks he has several times said he will respect and support the south’s wishes if it chooses independence. Beyond the referendum, several issues covered in the CPA remain unresolved, including the situation in Darfur, border delineation between the north and south and the division of Sudan’s national debt.
But Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president and the chairperson of the African Union (AU) panel on Sudan, has said he expects these issues to have been resolved by the time the CPA expires on July 9.
Mbeki made his comments in Juba, the southern capital, on Friday. Also in the south was George Clooney, the Holywood star, who was due to travel to the disputed region of Abyei.
The oil-rich Abyei region, a sticking point in what is otherwise being viewed as a successful build up to the landmark vote, had been due to hold a simultaneous vote on its future on Sunday, but that has now been indefinitely postponed.
The delay has prompted fears of clashes between the district’s settled pro-southern Ngok Dinka population and Misseriya Arabs from the north who use its waters for seasonal pasture.
The United Nation’s refugee agency has said that an average of 2,000 southerners are crossing back into south Sudan from the north every day ahead of the January 9-15 vote.
“The number of southerners who are leaving the North ahead of this week’s landmark Sudan referendum to return to their ancestral homes in the South has doubled since mid-December and now stands at 120,000,” the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on Friday.
Some reports say that hundreds more southerners have been stranded south of Khartoum, the northern capital, waiting for transport back to the south.
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ACTION ALERT: Take Action for Peace in Sudan
(January 8, 2011) — On Sunday, people in southern Sudan will vote in a referendum that could result in the creation of a new country.
The referendum was promised to southern Sudan at the end of a decades-long war. But it could result in new violence, both in the volatile south and elsewhere in Sudan.
The people of Sudan are tired of violence. We can help prevent post-referendum conflict by asking our friends and our leaders to pay attention and take action. People in Sudan need your voice.
Here’s what you can do:
Commit today to “donate” your Facebook status to the people of Sudan on their pivotal day — January 9. Simply copy and paste the following text into the status box on your Facebook wall:
I stand with the people of Sudan today as they vote in a controversial referendum. I will do my part to prevent violence there by spreading the word. Friends — will you add your voice by posting this message to your Facebook page?
Make your voice heard through the Sudan Action Center.
Tell your friends. Forward this message to everyone you know.
Stand with the people of Sudan! On January 9, southern Sudan will vote on a referendum that could make it an independent country.
One small action can make a big impact.
Without long-term support from the rest of the world, Sudan will fail to provide for the security of its people. Without pressure from the international community, violence could escalate. Donating your Facebook status will help spread the word about the referendum.
You may have seen George Clooney on TV speaking out about the referendum. You can speak out, too. Itâ€™s not too late to let friends, the public, and policymakers know what’s at stake in Sudan and what they can to do support Sudanese people who want a peaceful vote.
Spread the word, and then contact local media and your elected representatives through our Sudan Action Center.
Together, we can make a lasting impact for Sudan.
P.S. Action can start small — donate your Facebook status and visit the Sudan Action Center. Make your voice heard. For the people of Sudan, the impact could be immense.
Nonviolent Peaceforce, 425 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis, MN 55403. (612) 871-0005.www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org