Can northern Sudan alone pass laws for the whole of Sudan?
NCP Passing Of Amended Referendum Act Angers SPLM As US State Department Expresses Concern
Report by SRS - Sudan Radio Service, Wednesday, 23 December 2009:
(Khartoum) – The SPLM is accusing the NCP of pushing an amended version of controversial referendum legislation through parliament on Tuesday. The US State Department has issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the NCP for the move.- - -
The SPLM claim that the legislation, which in part lays out the procedure for a referendum to decide the future of southern Sudan, was amended during the passage of the bill without the SPLM being consulted.
NCP MPs used their majority in the parliament to amend article 27 of the legislation which had previously been agreed with the SPLM. The article now includes a clause which stipulates that southerners living in the north must vote in the north during the referendum.
The move caused outrage among SPLM MPs and other southern political parties. They demanded that the agreed article should be reinstated. The original article stipulated that "all southerners living outside southern Sudan should return to their region of origin in order to vote."
The SPLM deputy chairman, Dr. Riek Machar, expressed his "surprise" at the NCP move at a press conference in Khartoum on Tuesday evening.
[Riek Machar]: “We are surprised about what happened today, because we had agreed at the highest level about this law. We agreed at the level of the presidency, attended by both chairmen of the NCP and the SPLM, after which this law was approved by the cabinet. We were present at that meeting. They (NCP) even described the session as "historic". There was a common desire to pass the referendum law for southern Sudan, the popular consultation process for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and the referendum law for Abyei. On Monday, I held a meeting with El Shiekh Ali, the joint chairman of the joint executive political committee and we discussed the importance of passing these laws.”
Machar added that after the NCP's decision to amend the agreed legislation, the SPLM will consider passing a different referendum law in the Southern Sudan legislative assembly.
[Dr. Riak Machar]: “I would like to say we will not accept the law which was passed today, because the SPLM caucus withdrew and the southern political parties also withdrew from the session. Some members from the NCP also withdrew from the assembly. The house was turned into a northern Sudanese assembly. Can northern Sudan alone pass laws for the whole of Sudan? I think this is an unacceptable precedent, because southern Sudanese could say to themselves that if things have reached such a state, then we will pass the agreed legislation in the south - then we will see which law will be the national law because we reject what took place today."
However, the NCP chairman of the committee which supervised the drafting of the referendum laws, Badreia Suliman, speaking at a press conference in Khartoum on Tuesday, said that the SPLM’s withdrawal from the parliament was unjustified since the terms were agreed upon by the two partners in previous meetings.
[Badreia Suliman]: “The withdrawal of our brothers in the SPLM from the legislative assembly session at the final stage which was meant to pass the referendum legislation is inexcusable, because the law was already agreed upon by all the political parties who were represented on the emergency committee.”
The NCP insists that including the original article violated the constitutional rights of Sudanese citizens because it contradicts article 25 which guards against racial discrimination in Sudan.
Other than southerners living in the north being able to vote in the south, the SPLM had insisted that southerners living abroad should also be able to vote during the referendum in 2011.
The disagreement between the NCP and the SPLM over the disputed article highlights recent tensions between two CPA partners and threatens to call into question the legitimacy of the referendum legislation under the terms of the CPA.
The United States Embassy in Khartoum issued a strongly-worded statement from the State Department on Wednesday evening following the announcement that the NCP had passed legislation which differed from the original bill agreed to by the SPLM:
“The United States is deeply concerned about reports that the National Assembly passed the Southern Sudan referendum bill with language added by the NCP that is different than that agreed to by NCP and SPLM leadership. Reneging on the agreement negotiated on December 13th by the two parties undermines the peace process, jeopardizes CPA implementation, and risks sparking renewed political hostilities between the parties. We call on the parties to pass the remaining bills, including the Abyei referendum bill, using the text as agreed, and to restore the Southern Sudan referendum bill to the agreed-upon language before it is signed into law.”
In the same statement, the United States also expressed its concern about the passage of a revised National Security Act on Monday which it said, “contains no new measures of accountability for the security services. For elections to be credible, it is incumbent on the regime to demonstrate in word and in deed that this law will not be used to arrest and detain political opponents. The Government of Sudan must also make immediate and significant improvements to the electoral environment, including permitting peaceful demonstrations, ending press censorship, and allowing opposition voices to be heard. The high voter registration signals the clear desire of the people of Sudan to participate in the process of democratic transformation as proposed in the spirit and letter of the CPA. The United States calls on all parties to work together to ensure the upcoming elections and referenda are conducted in a credible manner.”
The statement was issued by the US Embassy in Khartoum on Wednesday evening.
See report by Radio Dabanga in The Netherlands, 23 December 2009 entitled Vice president Sudan Salva Kiir feels cheated.