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South Sudan disowns referendum vote limit

Wednesday October 21 2009

Mr Riek Machar

Mr Riek Machar 


The Southern Sudan Government has rejected a deal announced at the weekend on a referendum on the fate of the region.

Under the deal agreed by Southern Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar and the North’s VP, Mr Ali Osman Taha, a two thirds turnout of all registered voters and a 50 per cent plus one vote would be necessary for the South to become a separate state.

Says John Andruga Duku, the head of mission at the Government of Southern Sudan Liaison Office in Nairobi: “This is not acceptable to the SPLM and the Government of Southern Sudan.

“It is difficult to guarantee 66 per cent turnout, people go to vote voluntarily and there is no legal binding that one must vote.’’

The South instead wants the 66 per cent cap placed on the number that turns out to vote and not the voter list.

Responding to the SPLM claims, a diplomat at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, who sought anonymity, said the deal still stands and the South must muster a 66 per cent turnout for the referendum to warrant secession.


End violence

The latest row comes after the Obama administration unveiled a new policy on Monday under which it promises Sudan rewards if it acts to end violence in its western region of Darfur and implements the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed with Southern rebels in 2005.

Under the CPA, Southerners have the right to vote in 2011 to decide to remain part of Sudan or to secede.

But, the signs are that the two partners in the peace deal are far from agreement on many issues, among them a law that would allow the holding of the referendum.

In the past, the North has demanded a 75 per cent turnout for the result to warrant secession.

In another development, the SPLM has began a parliament boycott demanding the passing of new laws that guarantee press freedom, an end to detentions and the right to assembly before elections can be held.

Currently, Sudan’s ruling party, the NCP has 50 per cent of the seats in the country’s parliament. The SPLM has 28 per cent and other smaller parties have 22 per cent of the seats.

The CPA saw the international community pledging $4.7 billion for projects in South Sudan.

But, the South says, they have not gained from the aid pledge as most of the money has been diverted to Darfur.