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South Sudan Envoy Calls Talks With Khartoum ‘Peaceful Divorce’

  • Peter Clottey

A top official of South Sudan’s government has described as a “peaceful divorce” ongoing negotiations between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP) ahead of next January’s referendum.

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of the Government of South Sudan Mission to the United States, said the SPLM negotiating team is happy and ready to hold the talks in good faith with President Omar Hassan Bashir’s dominant NCP.

“Our team is happy and we are ready to negotiate in good faith with the National Congress Party because it is very important, as we approach the referendum, all the pending issues that need to be implemented must be implemented, and, then, the post 2011 arrangement to be discussed transparently and faithfully,” he said.

As part of the provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the north and the south, residents in the south are scheduled to decide in January’s referendum whether to be part of the north or secede and become an independent nation.

The CPA ended over two decades of war between the north and the south that reportedly left hundreds of thousands dead and destroyed property.

The talks currently being held in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, is scheduled to consider post referendum arrangements if residents in the semi-autonomous south choose to secede and become an independent nation in next year’s vote.

Gatkuoth said there are reasons to believe that residents in the semi-autonomous south will choose to secede and become and independent nation.

“Honestly, what we are entering into is negotiating a peaceful divorce. There is no way we can actually have a chance to implement everything and transform Sudan into a better Sudan for all of us,” Gatkuoth said.

Officials of the SPLM have often criticized the NCP of lacking the political will to implement all the provisions of the CPA ahead of the referendum – a charge the NCP denies saying the party is committed to the full implementation of the peace accord.

Gatkuoth said his party is grateful that leaders in Africa are helping with the ongoing negotiations.

“Having (former South African) President (Thabo) Mbeki, President Abubakr and (former Burundian) President (Pierre) Buyoya and the African Union High Implementation Panel. This is actually a boost to the two parties and we are happy that the African Union is taking a lead in this (discussion) with the chairmanship of President Mbeki,” Gatkuoth said.

He also said there is a need for both the NCP and the SPLM to accept the outcome of the referendum.

Meanwhile, Sudanese media quoted Pagan Amum, SPLM’s General Secretary as saying, his “offer (is) a promise to the people of Sudan, whether they are southerners or northerners, from western Sudan or eastern Sudan, that we shall negotiate in good faith with the National Congress Party and try to reach an agreement on all the post referendum issues.”