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Sudan Tribune

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Head of Sudan’s referendum commission says process well behind schedule

July 18, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The head of the body tasked with preparing the country for South Sudan referendum warned that they have little time left before the key vote takes place in January 2011.

Head of South Sudan referendum commission Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil (Rayaam newspaper)
Head of South Sudan referendum commission Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil (Rayaam newspaper)
Southerners are six months away from a referendum on whether they should split away as an independent nation, a right stipulated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the North & South which ended two decades of civil war that killed and displaced millions.

It is widely expected that people in South Sudan will choose independence driven by bitterness and mistrust of the Arab-Muslim dominated North. However, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) headed by president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir pledged to work for unity and keep the country intact.

Earlier this month and after much delay, Bashir swore in the members of the South Sudan Referendum Commission headed by Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil.

Khalil told the pro-government Al-Rayaam newspaper that lack of time remaining to prepare for the referendum is a “major problem” but affirmed that the commission will make necessary efforts to discharge its mandate.

He noted that the constitution gives the commission twenty-four months but that it only has six months at its disposal.

The commission chief stressed that providing security and the environment for conducting the referendum is the responsibility of the NCP & SPLM. He pledged to carry out his duties impartially without any attempts to influence or distort the wishes of Southerners.

A report released by a coalition of two dozen international NGO’s this month have warned that North and south Sudan could go back to war unless they reach agreement on sharing oil revenues and other issues.

They also warned that Sudan is “alarmingly unprepared” for the referendum despite insistence by the NCP & SPLM that it should be held as scheduled even as they still negotiating post-referendum arrangements.

(ST)