SUDAN WATCH: SPLM's Pagan Amum: South Sudan threatens to declare independence

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SPLM's Pagan Amum: South Sudan threatens to declare independence

The BBC correspondent in Khartoum, James Copnall, said Mr Amum's comments - and maybe even the NCP's reported demands for the 75% threshold in the vote - can perhaps best be understood as part of the tough negotiations around this issue.

There has been a delay in passing the law which will establish the procedures for the referendum.

See full story here below from BBC News and Sudan Radio Service.

South Sudan in independence threat

Photo: Pagan Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) says the governing party is laying down unfair referendum rules. (Getty Images/|BBC)

From BBC News at 17:45 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 18:45 UK:
South Sudan in independence threat
A senior politician in South Sudan says the south will declare unilateral independence if it does not get a fair referendum on the issue.

Pagan Amum, the secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, said the governing National Congress Party was trying to obstruct the vote.

He said the NCP was insisting that 75% of southerners vote for independence before the south could leave Sudan.

The NCP has not commented on the voting majority needed in the 2011 poll.

"We are warning the National Congress - we are also alerting the people of southern Sudan - that we have a serious problem," Mr Amum told the BBC World Service's Focus on Africa.

"The National Congress is poised to betray the people of southern Sudan again."

"We are not threatening anything at all," he said. "We are saying that any attempt to deny the people of southern Sudan the right to self-determination will force the people of southern Sudan to declare a unilateral independence."

'Simple majority'

Asked why he objected to the 75% figure being used and if he was afraid he could not reach that target, Mr Amum said: "We are not afraid of anything."

"We are saying the referendum should be a simple referendum like all referendum that have been conducted in the world. They have always been conducted with a simple majority."

There has been a delay in passing the law which will establish the procedures for the referendum.

The BBC correspondent in Khartoum, James Copnall, said Mr Amum's comments - and maybe even the NCP's reported demands for the 75% threshold in the vote - can perhaps best be understood as part of the tough negotiations around this issue.

The south is considered likely to vote for independence when the referendum does take place.

Many of Sudan's lucrative oilfields are in the south and this, along with national pride, means the north is keen to hold on to the vast if underdeveloped territory.

The 22-year war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south ended in 2005, after 1.5 million people died.

Under the 2005 peace deal the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) formed a power-sharing government with President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party in Khartoum.

National elections are due in 2010, a year before the referendum on whether the south should secede.
From Sudan Radio Service, Tuesday, 11 August 2009:
SPLM Threatens to Declare Independence
(Khartoum) – The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement says that if the National Congress Party tries to obstruct the endorsement of the referendum law, southern Sudanese would table a parliamentary motion to announce the separation of southern Sudan.

The statement was made by the SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum in a press conference held at party headquarters in Khartoum on Monday.

[Pagan Amum]: “The attempts by the NCP to impose unachievable conditions as a part of the referendum law, will not help the issue. If people do not get their interests in unity, they will get it in separation, if you (the NCP) try to escape from self-determination; the people will decide their determination using other ways, including the announcement of self-determination from inside the parliament. Don’t forget that we had the same experience before here in Khartoum, regarding unity between Sudan and Egypt, the government or the parliament decided to announce the self-determination from inside the parliament. ”

However, the National Congress Party has described Pagan’s statement as violation of the constitution.

Senior NCP official Mandour El-Mahdi spoke to Sudan Radio Service from Khartoum on Tuesday.

[Mandour el-Mahdi]: “Regarding the threat made by Pagan yesterday (Monday) that southern Sudan will go for other options including the announcement of self-determination inside the parliament according to what happened in 1955. We say that this is illogical talk, and talk that shows a threatening spirit and it is rejected by us in the NCP. If the SPLM is thinking of that, this issue will be considered as violation of the constitution and we will really consider it as an announcement of a new rebellion by some sons of the SPLM.

Mandour explains the situation between the two partners in terms of endorsing the referendum law, and the difficulties which are facing them.

[Mandour el-Mahdi]:”First of all, we don’t know what is the nature of the obstacles that Pagan is talking about, we know that there are disagreements in some parts of the referendum law, not only between the SPLM and the NCP, but also between other political forces and the SPLM. The first issue is who qualifies and has the right to vote in the referendum. We say that all the southern Sudanese present in the south or in the north will have the right to vote. The SPLM is insisting that southern Sudanese in the north who want to vote for referendum, should go back to southern Sudan, and that is difficult.”

El-Mahdi said that NCP’s stand is that the self-determination will be achieved only when 75 percent and above of southerners vote for it.

[Mandour el-Mahdi]: “The second point is the issue of the referendum commission. There should be wide representation in the commission. We are talking about 15 members, and they (the SPLM) are talking about very limit numbers, 9 members. The third issue is the percentage by which the option of the separation will be determined; we think the issue of separation is a huge issue, so it can’t be determined by a simple majority, 50 percent plus 1. So our opinion is that the separation will be determined when 75 percent of registered voters from the south vote for the separation option.”

Mandour el-Mahdi was speaking to Sudan Radio Service from Khartoum.

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