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South Sudan referendum at risk over commission standoff says SPLM.

13 August, 2010 (KHARTOUM) -- The standoff between north and south Sudan over the appointment of a secretary-general to the commission tasked with organizing South Sudan's referendum on independence from the north is threatening to derail preparations for the poll, according to secretary-general of the SPLM who govern south Sudan.

Pagan Amum - SPLM secretary-general

The referendum on southern independence is the linchpin of a 2005 peace deal between the SPLM and the NCP, which ended over two-decades of civil war. In the deal, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the former enemies agreed to share power and grant autonomous rule to the south governed by the SPLM. Implementing the deal has been characterized by constant bickering and mutual distrust. The deal is due to end in January 2011, with referendum on southern self determination. Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the SPLM, said yesterday that process had been paralyzed by failure for the two sides to agree on who should head the referendum commission. "The referendum commission clearly seems to have reached a deadlock in the process of selection of the secretary-general. The commission is now paralyzed, it is not working," Reuters quoted Amum as saying. Amum warned that failure to overcome this obstacle within the coming two weeks means that the referendum "will meet its demise." The senior SPLM official expressed his concern over the comments of Tarek Osman Al-Tahir, a member of the referendum commission who on 9 August suggested that the poll be delayed to complete the necessary pre-referendum procedures. "I am afraid there may be elements within the referendum commission that are actually planning a postponement, or in the worst case a total betrayal [of the right] to be exercised by the people of southern Sudan," AFP reported Amun as saying. Although it was scheduled to be formed at the beginning of 2010, as per the CPA, the commission, which is responsible for running the referendum, was only appointed in June. Explaining why a delay to the referendum is not an option for the south, Amum told Reuters, "the hopes and expectations of the people of south Sudan are so pinned on that date that it would be dangerous to postpone it because the level of frustration and disappointment would be so high for anybody to manage." In an address to a rally held in Egypt four days ago, Pagan said he expected southerners would vote overwhelmingly in favor of secession, attributing this to "the failure in defining Sudan as an Arab Islamic state." Before the CPA, the NCP attempted to rule the whole of Sudan, including the mainly Christian south, under Islamic Shari'a Law. "This error", he said, "is what led the Sudanese state to war with all those who found themselves outside the purview of that definition." Appointing the commission's secretary-general is not the only stumbling block for the referendum. The two partners have also failed to agree the demarcation of north-south border, which is made more controversial as Sudan's main oil fields are located in the border area. Most fields lie in the south and in the oil rich region of Abyei, whose residents are due to hold a simultaneous referendum on whether to join the south or the north. Preparations for Abyei's poll have also stalled along border demarcation disputes. A UN source told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity earlier this week that the issues of Abyei's referendum could be largely resolved if greater resources where applied by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) due its relatively small scale in comparison to the south. Conducting the southern referendum considering the current deadlock and remaining timescale would be more of a challenge the source said as 64 additional UN sites have to be established in southern Sudan. UNMIS is mandated to support the referendum whenever the SPLM and NCP agree to hold it, they said. As it stands UNMIS is expected to bring in 600 additional staff to assist the two referenda. According to the source, this could increase to 800 (as well as increasing the number of helicopters and vehicles needed) if issues such as appointing the southern referendum commissioner are not resolved in the next two weeks. The referendum is expected to cost $100 million, with $60 million from the UN, $20 million from the Sudanese government and the last $20 million from bilateral donors such as the US, Canadian and Dutch governments the source said. UN Development Program 'basket fund' for the referendum has already received over $25 million. (ST)

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Aug 13, 2010
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