A prominent member of the Sudan People?s Liberation Movement?s (SPLM) ruling council told VOA his party will now ?champion separation? from the north in the run up to the 9th January referendum.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, who is also the head of the government of Southern Sudan Mission to the United Nations and the United States, said President Omar Hassan al-Bashir?s government has, in the past five years, failed to make unity attractive to southerners ahead of next month?s self-determination vote.
?It is actually very clear now that the SPLM is going to champion the separation. We have made it very clear to the world that we have been fighting for a united secular Sudan. But, for the last five years, unity has been made very ugly to our people in the south, east, west, (and) north, and even in the center, said Gatkuoth.
?It is very clear now that the people of southern Sudan are going to vote for separation and we are going to champion the course for the people of southern Sudan.?
Observers say the move contradicts stipulations of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which calls on both the SPLM and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to work together for the country?s unity ahead of the referendum.
Officials of the NCP have accused the SPLM of flouting the CPA, which some analysts say will set the stage for a dispute over the outcome of the referendum.
The ruling party says it will only accept the outcome of the referendum if it is conducted in a free, fair and a credible atmosphere.
But, Gatkuoth said his party?s decision to openly campaign for secession does not undermine the CPA.
?The CPA is not forbidding anybody from championing or campaigning for any options. We have agreed, yes, that unity has to be made attractive for the last five years and then, at the end of the interim period, the people of southern Sudan will be asked if the unity has been made attractive so that they can vote for unity,? said Gatkuoth.
?But now, since we have failed to make unity attractive, it is actually the choice of the SPLM, or the choice of the NCP, or anybody in Sudan, to champion or to campaign for any of the options that you deem fit for your constituency. So, it is very clear that we are not violating anything.?
Gatkuoth also called on the estimated 3.5 million registered southern Sudanese to vote for separation so that, in his words, we can have 100 percent turnout and 100 percent separation.
Meanwhile, recent polls show a majority of southern Sudanese will choose secession over unity with the north.