Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum, 20 Dec 2010
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum, 20 Dec 2010

A prominent member of Sudan?s governing National Congress Party (NCP) said President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will soon visit semi-autonomous south Sudan ahead of the 9th January referendum.

Rabie Abdelati Obeid said Mr. Bashir?s visit will demonstrate his government?s commitment to good relations with the south even if, in his words, the southerners choose secession over the country?s unity.

?(Since) the referendum is the last item on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), it is the responsibility of the president to see (to) the arrangements that have been made in the south for the preparation of the referendum, and also to exchange views with the southern government so that this referendum will be free and transparent and with fairness,? said Obeid.

?This is the responsibility of the president and it will give (an) indication that the president will have good relations with the southern part of the country whether the result of the referendum is secession or unity.?

Political observers, as well as several human right groups, have expressed concern over escalating violence ahead of the referendum, despite promises of improved security.

The south Sudan referendum commission said its program of preparations to organize a credible vote is on course. Sudan?s Constitutional Court is expected to decide this week whether to dissolve the referendum commission.

Several southern Sudanese groups recently petitioned the court seeking the commission?s dissolution after citing alleged fraud and intimidation during the voter registration process.

Some analysts say President Bashir and his ruling NCP will be blamed and possibly lose political capital in the north if southerners choose secession instead of the country?s unity.

But, Obeid said the possible secession of the semi-autonomous south Sudan is not a failure of the NCP to keep the country united.

?(Mr.) Bashir?s belief is to work for unity up to the last moment. Also, unity or secession is not a failure of (the) NCP or President Bashir; this is a commitment and this is an agreement. On the contrary, I think that when the government of the north recognizes the result, whether it is secession or unity, this also gives indication that the government is fulfilling its promises and implementing and respecting the agreement,? said Obeid.

?Instead of saying this is failure, we should say that this is a model of how to respect an agreement.?