Accessibility links

Sudanese Divided On Peacekeepers On North South Border

  • Douglas Mpuga

The Sudanese government has objected to a proposal to move United Nations peacekeepers to the tense border between the north and south ahead of a referendum on independence for the south.

A senior Sudanese official said that the UN would need Khartoum's approval to move troops to the region to avoid violence ahead of the January referendum that could see the break-up of Africa's biggest nation.

Salah Gosh, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's security adviser, has reportedly said troops cannot be deployed without the consent of Khartoum.
U.N. officials said last week South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, fearing war preparations by the North, had requested the reinforcements.

The National Congress Party (NCP) has totally rejected the UN offer of moving peacekeepers to the border area, said Alfred Taban, the managing editor of the Khartoum Monitor, an independent English-language newspaper in Sudan.

He said the only way the Sudan government can accept the deployment is if it is sanctioned by the UN Security council or if there is a strong backing for the deployment from the United States.

The deployment, he said, would help although it cannot prevent disaster. “The border is very long and it is almost impossible to place UN troops along the entire border.

He said there is real fear among the people about the outcome of the referendum. “The fear is real. Many southern Sudanese in Khartoum are parking their belongings and are heading south, even if they have to walk.” Taban noted that many students have abandoned their university studies and have started to go south using their money meant for food for transportation.

He said many people are resigned to the possibility of the South seceding after the referendum but there are some hardline Islamists in the north who say they will not accept secession.

“They will want to impose unity which is likely to trigger more problems,” he said.

Taban said that the fact that preparations for the referendum are behind schedule is causing a lot of apprehension among south Sudanese because they think the delay is deliberate.

He said the Abyei issue may actually turn out to be of more concern than the referendum in the south. Both Southern Sudan and the oil-rich Abyei border region are to hold a referendum on January 9 on whether they want to break with the north.

“Khartoum has made it clear that they want everybody who claims to be inhabitants of Abyei to participate in the referendum.”

On the other hand, he said, the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) says the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) says the citizens of Abyei are the nine Dinka kingdoms (Dinka Ngok) and they will not accept any other person to participate in the referendum.

“This is a serious issue,” said Taban, adding “unless there is serious dialogue between the NCP and SPLM there is likely to be a problem.”