October 7, 2010 (JUBA) – The president of South Sudan and chairman of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Salva Kiir warned today that the semi-autonomous region might conduct its own referendum should the North attempt to hinder the exercise.
The long awaited self determination referendum in South Sudan is widely expected to result in the creation of the world’s newest state. It has been promised in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP) governing the North.
Preparations for the plebiscite are well behind schedule. The voter registration process will begin in mid-November and last until early December. This is in violation of the South Sudan Referendum Act (SSRA) enacted last year which states that preliminary voters registration lists are to be displayed for at least seven days, pending anticipated court objections that may arise.
The final voter’s registration list must be generated at least 90 days before the actual referendum polling day scheduled for January 9, 2011. The SPLM has consistently accused the NCP of dragging its feet for fear of losing oil wealth mostly located in the South.
Kiir told a visiting delegation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the South insists on sticking to the original timetable.
“He [Kiir] set out quite a powerful case for why the referendum had to go ahead on time and the fact that he felt [the] referendum would end up [with] a vote for separation,” Britain’s UNSC ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was quoted by Reuters, describing what Kiir had told envoys during a meeting in the southern capital Juba on Wednesday.
“He was not going to declare UDI (a unilateral declaration of independence). But if there is a delay, a politically induced delay by the NCP for the referendum, then it might be necessary for the south to hold their own referendum,” he added.
Lyall Grant said a new timetable, laying out preparations for the referendum was “very ambitious”.
Kiir who is also Sudan’s First Vice president has in recent days stepped up his rhetoric saying that he will personally choose secession over unity, something the NCP says is a violation of the CPA which calls on both sides to make unity an attractive option.
Senior NCP official Rabie Abdulatti told Reuters Kiir’s words were unacceptable and said Khartoum would not accept the result of an independence vote organised by the south on its own.
“Nobody would recognise it. This is against CPA. Everything about its implementation should be agreed by the two partners.”
Separately the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) accused the SPLA of amassing troops along the borders of the southern state of Upper Nile state and White Nile in the North.
The SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad warned that holding the referendum might not be possible if these violations continue, according to statements carried by state media.
Sa’ad said that the CPA security arrangements are not complete without having all troops at specific assembly points.
The North-South borders have yet to be demarcated mainly because of the existence of oil in these areas. The NCP insists that no referendum will take place without finishing the demarcation process.