October 11, 2007 / 10:50 AM / 12 years ago

Southerners withdraw members from Sudan's government

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Former rebels in southern Sudan have withdrawn their members from a national coalition government, party officials said on Thursday, to pressure their northern partners to reignite a stalled peace process.

“The SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) has recalled all ministers and presidential advisers from the government of national unity,” SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum told reporters in the southern capital Juba.

Amum said the National Congress Party (NCP), the SPLM’s former foes and the dominant party in the coalition, had failed to carry out key parts of a 2005 peace agreement.

“Presidential advisers, ministers and state ministers will not report to work until these contentious issues are resolved,” he said after a week of intense talks.

The NCP had used its majority of 52 percent of government and parliament to continue a one-party state, deputy secretary-general Yasir Arman said, expressing concern at unconstitutional actions and rights violations by the NCP.

“The (SPLM) condemns...unlawful detention of political opponents...censorship of the press and harassment of journalists...expulsion of diplomats without consultation,” Arman said listing just a few grievances.

The NCP blamed divisions within the SPLM for delays in implementing the peace agreement and officials handed journalists a 12-page list of dozens of violations of the deal they said were committed by the southerners.

“How can you resolve these problems by withdrawal?” asked NCP official Sayyid al-Khatib.

The peace deal ended Africa’s longest civil war and created a coalition government in Khartoum, with the SPLM taking just over a quarter of the posts.

It shared wealth, enshrined democratic transformation and paved the way for elections by 2009 and a southern referendum on secession. Decades of conflict had claimed 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes.

The decision by the SPLM, the political wing of the southern rebel movement which fought the Khartoum government for more than 20 years, is the culmination of months of disagreement between the two main partners in the national government.

NOT QUITTING GOVERNMENT

Arman said the party was not quitting the government and lines of communication would remain open. Parliament would continue and Salva Kiir would remain in his post as first vice president.

“We hope that we will resolve this crisis,” he said in Khartoum. “The National Congress Party (NCP) created this crisis and Salva Kiir is ready to resolve it.”

The SPLM formed a high-level committee that will work on unresolved issues of the deal, such as demarcating the north-south border, redeployment of northern troops from southern oil fields and creating an administration for the oil-rich Abyei area.

The NCP has expelled Western diplomats, aid workers and even the head of the U.N. mission in Sudan in recent years. It has also detained some 25 opposition figures without charge for weeks, contravening Sudanese law.

Nafie Ali Nafie, Sudan’s most powerful presidential adviser, said the NCP was ready to talk. “We have always been so (ready to talk) and we will continue to be,” he said.

He said the parties would not seek international mediation and there was deadlock over the oil-rich Abyei area. The partners agreed independent experts should define Abyei’s borders but the NCP later rejected theirs findings.

The failure to implement the north-south deal may hinder peace talks in Libya this month on Sudan’s western Darfur region because rebels doubt the NCP’s willingness to talk seriously.

Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom in Khartoum

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