August 12, 2010 / 9:10 AM / 9 years ago

Commission deadlock threatens Sudan independence vote

* South Sudan referendum commission in deadlock

* Progress needed in weeks or vote will not happen - SPLM

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, Aug 12 (Reuters) - South Sudan’s referendum on independence will not happen unless a deadlock within the commission planning it is broken within weeks, south Sudan’s main ruling party said on Thursday.

Pagan Amum, Secretary-General of the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), also said unity had not been made attractive to southerners by the northern ruling National Congress Party (NCP) since a 2005 peace deal ended Africa’s longest civil war.

"The referendum commission clearly seems to have reached a deadlock in the process of selection of the secretary-general. The commission is now paralysed, it is not working," Amum said.

The secretary-general is the main executive position and will manage the budget for the commission.

"If the referendum commission within the coming two weeks, if they are not able to resolve all the issues facing them now the referendum will be assassinated," Amum said.

The Jan. 9, 2011 plebiscite was contained in the accord that ended a civil war between northern and southern Sudan, fought on and off since 1955. Aid agencies estimate 2 million were killed, mostly through famine and disease, and 4 million driven from their homes, destabilising much of east Africa.

Amum said he feared members of the commission were stalling to derail the independence vote.

The NCP and SPLM have bickered over implementing almost every part of the deal. Observers say the NCP is reluctant to implement it while the SPLM often lacks the capacity to, frustrating the process and threatening a return to conflict.


Amum said southerners would vote to secede because Sudan had failed to transform itself into an equal, democratic society as envisioned by the peace deal.

"The Sudanese state lacks the critical ingredients for a united country because the ... basis around which the state is founded is faulty — this basis cannot sustain unity and the Sudanese edifice must come down as a result," he said.

Mainly Christian and animist former SPLM rebels fought the Islamist Khartoum government for equal rights in a conflict fuelled by oil, ethnicity and ideology.

Amum said postponing the vote was impossible. "The hopes and expectations ... of the people of south Sudan ... are so pinned on that date that it would be dangerous to postpone it because the level of frustration and disappointment would be so high for anybody to manage," he said.

The referendum should happen alongside a vote on whether to join the south or north for the disputed central oil-producing Abyei region. But the NCP and SPLM are in deadlock over creating that referendum commission, and the borders of the region, decided by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, have yet to be demarcated on the ground.

The SPLM also accuses the NCP of helping to settle pro-unity Arab Missiriya nomads inside the northern border, displacing the native Ngok Dinka and hoping to influence the referendum vote, a policy the NCP denies.

"This is threatening the emergence of ethnic cleansing," Amum said, adding the SPLM had asked the United Nations to intervene. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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