South Sudan referendum plans seem shaky
The South Sudan referendum scheduled for January could be delayed because important issues between South Sudan and the Sudanese government remain unresolved.
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“We think there might be another war,” said the thin-framed patriarch, as if talking of the year’s rainfall.
Mr. Majok, who lost three sons during the conflict, is not unique: 43 percent of South Sudanese think that a renewed war between north and south is imminent, according to a recent poll conducted in partnership with the London School of Economics. Only 28 percent think that the peace will hold.
Under the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), southerners are to get their chance to secede from the rest of Sudan in a January 2011 referendum. But with less than five months remaining before the vote, many here doubt that the government in Khartoum – led by president Omar al-Bashir, facing war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court – will actually let them go so easily.
Obama’s new push
President Obama hopes to help convince Sudan’s leaders to do just that as he ramps up diplomatic intervention, including a meeting with Sudanese leaders on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But time is running short. Preparations for the popular plebiscite have barely begun. Mr. Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and South Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) are barely on speaking terms and need constant mediation, according to those familiar with the current talks.
The CPA has failed to live up to its name since its beginning, say many.
“The CPA has been implemented in a way that has inhibited the resolution of many of the real differences,” says Douglas Johnson, a Sudan scholar and historian of the South Sudanese people. “These are all things which could have been resolved very early, so to have no resolution to these issues at this point shows a deliberate attempt to sabotage that part of the CPA.”
The commission charged with organizing the referendum on whether the South can secede was set up months late and has been deadlocked by divisions. An initial voter roll was required to be complete by the end of August, but registration has not begun – nor will it be easy to do once it finally gets under way.