News / Africa

UN Security Council Urges Sudan to Hold Referendum On Time

The U.N. Security Council is urging parties in Sudan to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and prepare for the holding on time of January's referendum that will decide whether South Sudan will secede.  The council is also expressing concern about the upsurge in violence in parts of the Darfur region, where many civilians have been killed and displaced.

The U.N. Security Council  and U.N. and African Union mediators cautioned there are numerous issues that must be resolved during the next seven months.

The outstanding issues include agreement on the demarcation of the North-South border, Abyei's border, the formation of Referendum Commissions for South Sudan and Abyei, and the start of popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The U.N. Special Representative for Sudan, Haile Menkarios, told the council the work ahead could be divided into two phases - first the peaceful and credible conduct of the referenda in January 2011, and second, the peaceful implementation of the outcomes of these processes.

Menkarios said unity and secession do not need to be a "zero-sum game" for the North and South.

"In interactions with the leaders of the two parties, we have advised that separation should not be considered a divorce, and that in the case of a vote for separation, maintaining close linkages between the South and the North is in the interest of both," said Haile Menkarios.

In what could complicate preparations for the referenda, Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Joint Special Representative of the U.N.-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), warned that hostilities have been escalating in parts of Darfur between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and government forces.  He said nearly 450 deaths were recorded in May alone.

"Movements of equipment and build-up of troops continue to be witnessed on both sides, and it is expected that the military confrontations may continue for some time unless urgent efforts at ensuring a ceasefire are made by the international community," said Ibrahim Gambari.

He said the surge in violence has scattered civilian populations, complicating the peacekeepers' job of protecting them and ensuring they receive humanitarian aid.

The U.N.-AU Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, said the clashes violate agreements reached between JEM and the government, and if the fighting does not stop, it could compromise all efforts at achieving peace, security, and economic development in Darfur.

The chairman of the AU high-level panel for Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, said the group would convene next week to begin negotiating the post-referendum arrangements, taking into account both possible outcomes of the vote.

The United Nations says it stands ready to provide technical and logistical assistance to the referenda commissions as soon as they are operational.

The referendum in South Sudan will decide whether the region remains part of the country or secedes.  The referendum in Abyei will decide whether that district remains part of the north or joins the south if it secedes.

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