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By FRED OLUOCH
September 28 2009 at 00:00

Southern Sudan is calling upon East African governments to intervene and help save the peace agreement between itself and Khartoum before the country relapses into civil war.

The semi-autonomous South is convinced that the President Omar el-Bashir-led National Congress Party (NCP) is bent on undermining the key provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by employing tactics meant to scuttle the 2011 referendum that will determine whether the South secedes.

In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican, the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) head of mission in Nairobi John Anduga Duku, argued that Khartoum intends to scuttle the scheduled referendum by sponsoring militia groups to cause chaos in the South in order to show the world that the Southerners are not capable of governing themselves.

“We have now reached a critical stage in the implementation of the CPA in which the region, especially Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) must intervene and evaluate the progress. Any attempt to delay the referendum will not be acceptable to the South. We would rather forgo elections but the referendum must take place,” said Mr Duku.

He accuses the NCP of undermining the GOSS by sponsoring individuals like Lam Akol to try and splinter the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement and of sponsoring militias to cause inter-ethnic strife in the South, like it happened recently in Duk Padiet Payam in Jonglei state, where clashes between the Nuer and Bor Dinka, left 81 people dead and over 60 wounded.

Recently, negotiations between the NCP and the SPLM presided over by the US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, failed to reach an agreement on how to go about the referendum.

Khartoum is insisting that the vote to declare independence for the South must reach a threshold of 75 per cent, while the SPLM says 50 per cent plus one will suffice, arguing that it is the universally accepted threshold for self-determination.

Mr Duku also says the NCP chose Dr Ghazi Salahuddin to head its team in the negotiations for the referendum despite him being on record saying that the South will only secede through the barrel of the gun.

The other contentious issue is that Khartoum is insisting that Southerners living in the North should be allowed to take part in the referendum wherever they are, which the SPLM says is a ploy to influence the outcome of the referendum.

The CPA states that the referendum should be conducted in the South only.

The Southerners are also claiming that the referendum was scheduled for this year, but was first pushed to February 2010 due to lack of preparedness, and then later to April next year.

April also happens to be the beginning of heavy rains in the South, when communication is difficult.

The South is afraid that the continued postponement of the elections could eat into the referendum period.

However, the South would rather forgo elections than miss the referendum.

The GOSS now says that Khartoum is determined to preempt, deny, or disallow a legitimate vote for self-determination — the core principle of the CPA — and that they are ready to unilaterally declare secession.

Recently, top SPLM official Pagan Amum warned that the South will unilaterally declare independence if the North is bent on scuttling the referendum.

The CPA mandates Khartoum to make unity attractive to the South within the six year interim period by sharing power, sharing wealth and initiating development projects for the South to develop and its economy to catch with that of the North.

But four years down the line, the Southerners still feel oppressed, marginalised and that they are treated as second class citizens.

According to Eric Reeves, a Boston-based university professor, the NCP has held back the key concessions required for the democratic transformation that the peace deal promised, including a repeal of repressive laws and restoration of basic freedoms of association and expression, and it has blocked the actions necessary for a peaceful referendum, such as a credible census, demarcation of the North/South border, fuller wealth-sharing and de-escalation of local conflicts in the transitional areas of Abyei, South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.

The SPLM maintains that there is clear evidence of Khartoum sending weapons to militia groups in the South, as well as particular ethnic groups and to the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda and now operating in northern Democratic Republic of Congo and Western Equatoria in Southern Sudan.

Apart from having to deal with proliferation of arms in the South, the GOSS is grappling with the issue of corruption, which Khartoum has been highlighting with relish.

Mr Duku does not dispute the existence of corruption and says there are individuals who have misappropriated public finances, especially revenue from oil.

“Sudan is not an island, there is corruption, but it is not sanctioned by the government of Southern Sudan. The government is doing all it can to fight this cancer, we cannot defend individuals who have committed crime. However, there is a problem in the institutions of governance, in that we have a weak judiciary and a police force that allows those who have misappropriated public resources to escape prosecution. You cannot fight corruption with weak institutions,” he said.

The CPA says, “At the end of the six years of interim period, there shall be an internationally monitored referendum organised jointly by the GOSS and the SPLM for the people of South Sudan to confirm the unity of the country by voting to adopt the system of government established under the peace agreement or vote for recession.”

and there is growing anxiety that the dates could be changed again given the growing tension between the North and the South.

The principle of Southern Sudan self-determination was established in the Machakos Protocol of July 2002.

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