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US envoy departs Sudan amid growing NCP-SPLM tension

November 7, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The US special envoy to Sudan retired general Scott Gration left on Froday after failing to bridge differences between the two major partners in the government of National unity (GoNU).

Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie (Al-Raed newspaper)

The new development comes despite earlier indications that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) were close to agreeing on disputed item of referendum and the census through Gration’s mediation.

The particularly sensitive issue of referendum is centered on the percentage of voters turnout required to recognize the self determination process valid and the percentage of ‘yes’ votes to declare an independent South Sudan.

The census dispute relates to the use of the one conducted last year which the South considers to be understating their numbers for the purposes of determining the geographical constituencies in the April 2010 elections.

SPLM suggested using the population percentages in post-elections census but the NCP rejects it.

It remains unclear what the next steps would be for both parties and the US administration which is working hard to prevent the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), it helped broker, from unraveling.

There is growing internal and regional concern that South Sudan may resort to a unilateral declaration of independence should the effort to agree on the referendum law fails.

But the powerful Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie warned the South from undertaking this step.

“Any irresponsible or illegal move will find no respect…if the choice [through referendum] is separation then we will accept the new state and it will enjoy the full international support but anything else will mean that they fear that people of the South will chose unity” Nafie told reporters today in a press conference.

Nafie directed fierce criticism at the SPLM accusing it of violating the human rights of its citizens saying the South “is governed by the SPLM intelligence”.

“The [SPLA] intelligence is composed of isolated islands with no unified administration” he said.

Nafie accused the SPLA of attacking the NCP supporters in the South through “torture and arrests”.

He presented two NCP members in the South who recounted their experience of torture and harassment by the SPLA including continuous interrogation and water boarding.

Kamal Ebeid, another NCP leading figure, was quoted by Sudan official news agency (SUNA) as saying that the SPLM in it current form “cannot be a strategic partner to achieve peace and security in Sudan”.

On the current voter registration currently underway, the SPLM Deputy Secretary General told the UN sponsored Miraya FM radio the NCP is trying to “manipulate” the process.

Throughout Sudan it was reported that the turnout for the registration is low with expatriates complaining that the limited centers to register themselves as voters even in areas with a huge presence of them.

The former President Jimmy Carter’s foundation which is monitoring the elections expressed concern over the registration process and called on the Sudan’s National Election Commission (NEC) to “act immediately to accredit national and international observers as well as political party agents, and lift restrictions on observers’ freedom of movement”.

Parliamentary, presidential and state-level elections are due in April 2010, followed by a southern referendum on independence in January 2011, both part of a 2005 north-south peace accord that ended two decades of civil war.

Some observers have pointed out that the elections and subsequently the referendum will have to be delayed due to disagreements among the political parties on a number of laws and threats of boycott.

(ST)