afrol News, 14 July - In only six months, the South Sudanese will vote over full independence from Sudan. A new report however warns that "Sudan is alarmingly unprepared" for the critical referendum.
With six months until a referendum on Southern Sudan's independence, "Sudan is alarmingly unprepared," according to a report published today by a global coalition of 26 humanitarian and human rights organisations working with or in Sudan.
The report calls for urgent action from African heads of state, who will meet shortly at a major summit of the African Union (AU) in Uganda from 19-27 July. Ahead of the summit, international Sudan envoys are to meet in Khartoum on 17 July.
"The clock is ticking fast towards what might be the most important date in modern Sudanese history - two referenda in Sudan that are likely to result in the break-up of Africa's largest state," the coalition warns in the report.
In addition to the referendum on Southern independence, another vote will be held simultaneously in the area of Abyei, to determine whether or not it will join Southern Sudan. Finally, "popular consultations" over a north or south attachment are to be held in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.
The referenda and popular consultations are organised as the final steps of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in January 2005, ending Sudan's north-south civil war. The extraordinarily brutal war at that point had lasted decades and killed nearly 2 million civilians.
"But few of the outstanding issues, such as agreements on oil and borders which were to be negotiated after the signing of the CPA, have been resolved," the report says. "The CPA expires in less than a year, at which point all interim arrangements will run out," it adds.
The organisations behind the report say that it is now important that the "guarantors" of the CPA to put pressure on the Khartoum government and the leaders of the autonomous South. The "guarantors" had pledged to help Sudan implement the CPA and include several states and multilateral organisations, including the AU, EU, UN and US.
"The international community must now capitalise on the opportunity provided by the CPA and ensure that a free and fair referendum occurs," urges Osman Hummaida of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, adding that a failed referendum "could plunge Sudan back into war once more."
Rosie Sharpe from Global Witness sees the oil resource conflict between north and south as one of the major and most critical outstanding issues. "An agreement to share the revenues from oil was instrumental in achieving peace between north and south Sudan," she recalls.
"As preparations begin for the referendum and possible Southern independence, it will be vital to resolve outstanding issues around oil in order to avert a return to war," Ms Sharp warns. The "guarantors" of the CPA needed to push for negotiations over these disputed oil resources.
Also, the "guarantors" were urged to "appoint a high-level individual" to travel to Abyei, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan consistently over the next six months to ensure adequate preparations for the referendum in Abyei and the popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.
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