Human rights activists are cautioning against U.S. promises to drop Sudan from a list of sponsors of state terrorism. They say such promises could undermine long term security in the region.
As the referendum for south Sudan's secession moves ahead, human rights activists are closely watching how the United States is dealing with the Sudanese government in Khartoum.
If a vote for separation in the south wins, as is widely expected, the agreed upon timetable would have south Sudan become a new country in July.
U.S. officials are now reiterating pledges they could remove Sudan from its list of states that sponsor terrorism as early as July as well.
But David Abramowitz from the U.S.-based group Humanity United says the U.S. Congress will also play in role in determining such a change. "Obviously there will be issues there and people will be looking at that. There is a congressional role there, consultation at a minimum, that will be happening," he said.
Before such a move, Sam Bell, with the U.S.-based Genocide Intervention Network, says U.S. officials would also do well to look into whether Sudan's government is currently backing the Uganda-based roving militia Lord's Resistance Army (L.R.A), which is currently proscribed by the United States as a terrorist organization.Their leader Joseph Kony is wanted on an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued in 2005 for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
"One thing that we have urged the administration to look at is the connection between Khartoum and the LRA which is reported, elements of which are reported to be in south Darfur and are reported to have reached out to Khartoum in the past months and weeksm," he said.
The LRA started in opposition to Uganda's government in the late 1980s, but in recent years has wrecked havoc in several east African countries, burning and looting villages, raping villagers and abducting children. There are concerns the group is now operating in Sudan's western region of Darfur where a war between rebels and Sudanese security forces persists.
Abramowitz from the group Humanity United says that since there has been no progress to end the violence in Darfur, U.S. economic sanctions should remain. "If things go well on the referendum, state sponsor of terrorism list is definitely on the table come July but other areas such as the lifting of sanctions and debt relief, etcetera are not until Darfur is resolved," he said.
Other unresolved issues related to the north-south agreement to end two decades of civil war also remain, such as the oil-rich border region of Abyei which was also supposed to hold a referendum on its future this week.
There has been violence in Abyei in recent days in which dozens of people have been killed. Human rights activists warn the clashes could be a prelude to a new north - south war.