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Sudan Tribune

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Al-Mahdi warns against sabotage on South Sudan self-determination

By James Gatdet Dak

September 3, 2009 (JUBA) – The leader of a major historical political party in Sudan has warned against any attempts to sabotage the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan.

Sudanese opposition leader Sadeq al-Mahdi arrives in Juba on September 3, 2009 (AFP)
Sudanese opposition leader Sadeq al-Mahdi arrives in Juba on September 3, 2009 (AFP)
Speaking to journalists at Juba International Airport shortly after his arrival from Khartoum on Thursday for talks with the leadership of the SPLM, the chairman of the UMMA party, Sadiq Al-Mahdi said it would be counter-productive in the national interest if political parties resort to playing politics with the right of self-determination.

The former Prime Minister of Sudan, whose government was overthrown in a bloodless coup by the incumbent President Omer Al-Bashir in 1989, said he had come to Juba on the invitation of the SPLM leadership to convene a consultative meeting.

Al-Mahdi who came aboard the same chartered flight from Khartoum together with the SPLM Deputy Chairperson, Dr. Riek Machar, also expressed optimism that the two parties would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the Juba meeting.

In his response to a question seeking his position on the recent statements by some senior officials of the NCP that said separation of the South would be made difficult to achieve by law, Al-Mahdi said his organization would work against any attempts to make self-determination difficult to achieve.

“It is going to be counter-productive in the national interest if we [political parties] play politics with self-determination. We [UMMA party] don’t want to play politics with self-determination,” he said.

“We want self-determination to be a straight forward voluntary decision by the people, or brothers and sisters in the South. And therefore we will work and stand against any attempts to play politics with self-determination,” he vowed.

Al-Mahdi added that the meeting would examine the New Sudan vision to see what it is and to forge a common way forward in case the South votes for independence.

“We are going to discuss what this New Sudan means,” he said.

He also vowed that his party is for voluntary unity or separation of Sudan and would make separation easier if that is what the South wants.

“In our discussion with the leadership of the SPLM, we have suggested ways and means of making self-determination easier, simpler and more straight forward,” he added.

He also expressed the need to discuss establishment of future special relationships between the two would-be separate independent neighboring countries in case the South will vote for secession in January 2011.

“We are going to discuss the terms of co-existence if our brothers and sisters in the South opt for independence,” he further added.

Almahdi, who has come to Juba for the first time since the signing of the CPA, said he did not come to the South at this stage to seek for political alliance with the ruling party in the region. He however quickly added that “everything is possible” and such alliance would be discussed at a later date as the elections approach.

Several political parties in the country are expected to meet in Juba next week to try to come closer for a common national agenda ahead of the upcoming general elections and referendum.

Al-Mahdi, who leads his party’s delegation for a four-day meeting, said the bilateral meeting with the SPLM leadership is neither aimed at polarizing the expected political gathering nor excluding some other political forces.

The people of Southern Sudan and Abyei are scheduled to conduct their respective referenda in January 2011 in accordance with the 2005’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Interim Constitution of Sudan.

The South shall vote to either confirm the unity of Sudan under the current CPA arrangements or create an independent sovereign country.

Abyei shall vote to either join Southern Sudan or remain in the North.