Home | News    Wednesday 30 December 2009

Sudan referendum bill finally sees the light

December 29, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese national assembly today adopted the controversial referendum law after ironing out the disputed portions of the bill that led to political stalemate over the last couple of months between the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) which represents the ruling party of South Sudan.

After a series of retaliatory measures by SPLM including giving its MP’s boycotting the parliament and leading two demonstrations this month in the Sudanese capital, the NCP conducted marathonic talks to bridge differences on the referendum law among others.

Last week the Sudanese NCP bloc introduced changes to the original text of the law that angered the ex-Southern rebel group leading to its MP’s walking out during the voting session. The NCP utilized its simple majority to endorse the law.

However, the NCP later changed hearts and agreed to send the bill back to the parliament to remove the amendment following criticism from the US administration and the EU.

Sudan official news agency (SUNA) said that the national assembly adopted articles 27 and 67 dealing with voter registration centres and the criteria by which a Southerners in the North.

Under the law, south Sudanese living outside the south and born before January 1, 1956, the date of Sudan’s independence, must vote in the south.

But south Sudanese living outside the south and born after January 1, 1956 would be able to vote in their place of residence, whether in the north or abroad.

Both sides hailed the passage of the referendum law.

“This law is not a law of separation for south Sudan but is a law for the referendum. We all need to unite Sudan and work towards unity,” said deputy speaker Atem Garang of the SPLM.

“This law has given southerners who came to the north fleeing the war a chance to vote," said top National Congress Party official Ibrahim Ghandour.

However, most observers anticipate a landslide vote by Southern Sudanese in favor of secession when the 2011 referendum is held owing to two decades of civil war as well as ideological, ethnic and religious differences.

There are some sticky items to be determined on a technical level on post-secession arrangements including the division of assets and liabilities, water share, status of South Sudanese living in the North and vice versa.

Also, the demarcation of the North-South borders has yet to be completed.

On Wednesday the national assembly will vote on a law governing the referendum in Abyei, which lies on the north-south border, on whether it wants to remain part of the north or join the south should it become independent.