The President of the government of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit today presented a special keynote address at the annual legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
He called on the international community to continue to put pressure on the government of Sudan to hold a planned January referendum on independence for the semi-autonomous south in a timely manner. The poll is part of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed five years ago that ended nearly 20 years of civil war between the south and the government of Sudan in Khartoum.
“The referendum,” he said, “is sacrosanct.”
Kiir was introduced at the conference by Congressman Donald M. Payne, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.
Accompanied by a group of officials from his government, Kiir paid tribute to what he described as the solidarity between the African-American caucus and the people of South Sudan. He said the CPA was made possible by the support of the American leaders and called on their continued commitment to the people of his region.
President Kiir is in Washington seeking U.S. support for the poll. He will meet with members of the diaspora and attend a high level meeting on Sudan in New York next week. US president Obama is expected to attend the meeting. President Kiir said that the Khartoum government has not fully committed to the process and warned against what he called “foot dragging”.
Kiir asked the international community, especially the U.S., to boost support for the referendum. “It is critically important,” he said, “ that the referenda take place on time as stipulated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.”
Issues of Concern
Kiir said that one issue that needs to be resolved is the status of the oil rich region of Abeyei. Renewed fighting between ethnic groups has displaced tens of thousands of local Dinka from their homes.
“We don’t want Abeyei to be the potential epicenter of the next conflict between the north and south,” he said. “Delay or denial of the right of self determination to the people of Southern Sudan and Abeyei risks dangerous instability.”He said that his government had instituted an independent audit to determine the amount of oil revenue that comes from the region to ensure ‘equitable sharing of the resources’ between the north and the south.
Kiir also said that the rights of southernors who live and work in the north should be respected, regardless of whether or not southern voters decide to secede. Next week Salva Kiir will meet with US president Obama,UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other leaders to discuss the referendum.