December 24, 2010 (JUBA) – The top American diplomat in Juba, Ambassador Barrie Walkley, has congratulated the leadership of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) for their successfully involving key stakeholders in the process of the region’s independence referendum due to take place in two weeks time.
In subsequent joint meetings chaired by the region’s Vice President, Riek Machar, the leadership urged southern Sudanese political parties as well as those from the north to have a strong presence at the polling stations by deploying their parties’ agents to counties to monitor the exercise. Around twenty four political parties are operating in the South.
Last week’s meeting with the political parties, heads of ten states referendum taskforces in Southern Sudan and international observers, in the presence of the leadership of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission/Bureau, reviewed the progress and challenges in the process and agreed on the way forward.
Also in a separate briefing with the heads of diplomatic missions in Juba, the GoSS leadership stressed that it was important for all parties involved to recognize the outcome of the referendum.
The Vice President further stressed the importance of presence in the polling centers of party agents of the northern ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and partner in the peace deal with the southern ruling party, former rebels the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), so that the outcome will be clear to all.
In the meeting on Monday with heads of diplomatic missions in Southern Sudan, Machar reiterated the government’s commitment to continue building a good relationship with the north irrespective of the outcome of the plebiscite, pointing out to the importance of two viable states even if the south secedes and forms its own independent state.
“Regardless of the referendum outcome, GoSS will persist in its determined efforts to build a new “win-win” and peaceful relationship with the north based on mutual respect and recognition of our common economic interests.”
“GoSS is committed to reaching an agreement with the north that will allow for a peaceful transition and cooperative post-referendum relationship in the areas of citizenship, security, economic and financial issues (including issues related to the division of debts and assets, banking and currency, water and the oil sector), and international treaties and agreements.”
“It is in the mutual interest of all the peoples of Sudan that, if there is a vote for secession in the referendum, there should be two strong, stable and viable future states joined by economic, cultural and social cooperation,” Machar read in the statement to the diplomats.
In a press statement after the meeting with the Vice President on Friday, the US Ambassador Barrie Walkley, commended the efforts exerted by the leadership in paving the way for a timely conduct of a free, fair and transparent referendum and reassured of the American commitment to support the process.
Machar on his part said the GoSS was commitment to an orderly conduct of the referendum. He also briefed the diplomat on this week’s dialogue with the Muslim community in Southern Sudan, saying the region was working to harmonize and reassure the various sections of society ahead of the plebiscite on independence.
The Vice President also revealed that ceasefire committees between GoSS and the group of renegade Gen. George Athor would meet soon to try to stop any further clashes and resolve the conflict between the government and the former Southern Sudan army’s deputy Chief of General Staff who rebelled in May after losing the April’s gubernatorial elections in Jonglei state.
The US government has been playing a leading role in supporting the implementation of the 2005 peace deal as well as in funding development projects and supporting the referendum process.
The ballot papers for the exercise on January 9, 2011 have arrived Juba and are being distributed to the various polling centers across the country. It is widely expected that the South will vote for secession and establish an independent state.