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South Sudan Rejects Referendum Postponement, Warns Egypt Over 'Interference'

Published on Monday 6th December 2010

Southern Sudan's ruling party, the Sudan's Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), will not accept any proposal aimed at delaying the timely conduct of the regions self-determination referendum, a senior party official said Saturday.

The deputy Secretary General's remarks follows reports that Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the Chairperson of Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) allegedly plans to ask the country's political leaders to delay the referendum for three weeks, citing the little time remaining until January 9, 2011.

Anne Itto Leonardo, the SPLM deputy Secretary General in the south told journalists that any attempt to postpone the referendum vote would be violation of Sudan's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

The CPA ended over two decades of civil war between the north and south of Africa's largest country with the SPLM and Sudan's ruling National Congress Party agreeing to share power and the south's oil wealth for a six year period.

After this interim period, in which both sides agreed to make unity attractive, the south would be vote on secession by 9 January 2011.

"The SPLM and the southern government out rightly reject plans by anybody to derail processes leading to the successful conduct of the southern referendum. What is all these we are hearing when voter's registration is peacefully going on?" asked Itto, who is also Minister for Agriculture and Forestry in the southern government.

An estimated nearly 3 million people, she said, have so far registered in the ongoing exercise, while the north reportedly recorded only 76,000 registered voters. Overall, there are 2,623 and 165 registration centers in south and north Sudan respectively.

Meanwhile, SPLM deputy Secretary General also attacked on the Egyptian government, after it emerged recently that Sudan's northern neighbor lobbied the United States to delay the southern referendum.

A leaked diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Cairo said southern secession in 2011 could have "fatal implications". Egypt believes that the south's independence could destabilize the region causing an increase in migrants into Egypt.

The cable asked the US to lobby the Government of Southern Sudan to delay the vote by four to six years to allow the south to develop into a more viable state should it chose to vote for independence from the north.

Egypt appears concerned that an independent southern Sudan would side with other riparian nations who want to be able to sue a larger share of the Nile's water.

Itto told the press conference that Egypt should be working towards a positive peaceful outcome in the referendum.

"Egypt will be disappointed by the positive outcome of the referendum which they are trying to be against. Instead, the Egyptian government should concentrate on creating a peaceful co-existence with its neighbors like south Sudan for economic gains," she said.

She however, noted concern at the "very little progress" that has been made in post-referendum discussions between the two governments, mainly on issues like security, oil revenue sharing, citizenship and the north-south border demarcation.

On this, Dr. Itto urged the Khartoum-based National Congress Party (NCP) to demonstrate full commitment in the negotiations, saying the latter is well known for its history of violating agreements ever since the 2005 peace deal was signed.

"Since the CPA was signed, the NCP has continuously violated set agreements. I urge the NCP leadership to show full commitment to the full implementation of the CPA provisions," she said, citing the Abyei protocol, north-south border issues and the forthcoming referendum.

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