Global Policy Forum

Sudan: Ban Expresses Concern Over Prospects for Violence

In January 2011, Southern Sudan will be able to vote for independence and observers think it is likely that the South will choose secession. The southern Sudanese leaders have asked for an increase in the number of UN peacekeepers to create a buffer zone in anticipation of the outcome, but the UN will only be able to reinforce its presence in specific areas. Representatives from the Bashir government in the north have stated they are committed to peace, but they have also railed against the upcoming referendum.  Observers are concerned that the vote will cause a return to violence.

November 16, 2010

The United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that "hostile public statements" by politicians in North and South Sudan highlight the risk of a return to violence ahead of the self-determination referendum in the South scheduled for next January.

On Monday, Southern Sudanese began the much delayed process of registering themselves for voting which was hailed by U.S. president Barack Obama as a "critical milestone".

The plebiscite is the climax of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) deal that ended decades of north-south conflict - Africa's longest civil war that was fought over ethnicity, religion, ideology and oil and killed 2 million people. Analysts and diplomats expect the south to choose independence from Khartoum.

"The CPA parties have reiterated their responsibility on several occasions, not only for the organization and conduct of the referenda, but also for the preservation of security and the creation of an environment conducive to the exercise of civil and political rights," Ban told the UN Security Council (UNSC) special session on Sudan.

"In this regard, the protection of southern Sudanese who live in the north, and of northerners who live in the south, is of major concern. So, too, is the possibility of a return to the suffering and loss of life seen during the long war between the North and South," he added.

The UN chief said while leaders on both sides made public commitments of "no return to war" there have been contradictory messages by other officials.

"[W]e have also heard hostile public statements and accusations of ceasefire violations, which risk heightening anxiety and provoking isolated security incidents that can escalate into a wider conflict," he said.

Ban stressed that there is high potential for conflict in Abyei "where the Misseriya will soon begin their annual Southward migration, emotions are running high and little progress has been made in finding a solution to the political impasse".

A simultaneous referendum was supposed to take place in the North-South border region of Abyei but disagreements have persisted over who is eligible to vote, the composition of Abyei's electoral commission and the demarcation of the region's borders.

The borders of Abyei were redrawn by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) after the National Congress Party (NCP) & Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) agreed to refer the matter to it last year. However, the technical commission mandated with demarcating the borders on the ground have yet to start the process because of threats leveled by the Arab Misseriya tribe who objected to the PCA ruling.

The SPLM in control of the South has interpreted the ruling as meaning that the cattle-herding Misseriya tribe have no right to vote in areas assigned by the PCA to the Dinka Ngok. However, the Misseriya vowed not to allow the vote to take place even if they have to resort to force unless they are allowed to participate.

Ban revealed that the world body is in talks with the North and South to beef up the number of UN troops known as UNMIS.

"We are working with both parties (north and south) on options for a possible augmentation of additional U.N. troops to increase referendum and post-referendum security," he said.

He further said that the increase in the 10,000-strong force that monitors compliance with the 2005 peace deal would also be to increase its capacity to "verify and monitor possible cease-fire violations and to protect civilians." However, he stressed that "it will not be enough to prevent the return to war should widespread hostilities erupt,"

South Sudan had asked the council to approve a full-scale U.N.-monitored buffer zone across the entire north-south border, but council diplomats said UNMIS will only be able to offer a strengthened presence in hotspots along the frontier.

The UNSG said aid agencies have contingency plans to provide assistance in case of "referendum-related violence" and appealed for donations for the 63 million dollars needed "to pre-position humanitarian assistance near potential hotspots."

The SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum told the UNSC that the voter turnout "was impressive and peaceful". "This is a clear sign that the southern Sudan referendum will take place on time on Jan. 9, 2011," he said.

"All signs point to the fact that the people of southern Sudan are likely to vote for independence in January... We call on the council and on all U.N. member states to respect the choice of the people of southern Sudan," Amum said.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said the NCP's decision to give the south the right to self-determination was "among the more daring decisions" ever taken by an African government and urged the international community to withdraw the referral of the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes in Darfur and added genocide to the indictment this year. Bashir rejects the charges saying they are part of a Western conspiracy to topple his regime.

The indictment has restricted Bashir's international travel and forced him to turn down several invitations.













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