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Disagreements Piling Up: Sudan’s North and South At Odds Over the Southern Referendum Law

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Disagreements Piling Up: Sudan’s North and South At Odds Over the Southern Referendum Law

Posted by Maggie Fick on August 19, 2009

UPDATE: In breaking news from Juba, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration has announced the signing of a new deal today between Sudan’s North and South that aims to keep the faltering Comprehensive Peace Agreement on track. No details on the content of this deal are public yet, but we’ll keep you posted. The BBC’s Juba correspondent reports that the mood in Juba today is optimistic, but that a number of thorny issues remain–notably, the hot-button issue of the as-yet-unpassed law laying the framework for the South’s 2011 referendum (see below).

Reporting from Juba, southern Sudan, Kenya’s Daily Nation correspondent Badru Mulumba wrote this week that tensions between Sudan’s northern and southern governments are mounting once again over the nuts and bolts of the national law that will outline the procedures and regulations for southern Sudan’s 2011 self-determination referendum.

The southern referendum is mandated to take place at the end of the “interim period” of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, which ended more than two decades of civil war and was signed in 2005 by the North’s National Congress Party, or NCP, and the South’s Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army, or SPLM. The relationship between the two Sudanese parties to the CPA is tenuous and the complex process of implementing the agreement stalled repeatedly throughout the interim implementation period. The current heated battle over the referendum is indicative of the challenges facing Sudan in the run-up to 2011, where the devil of implementation of the 241-page peace agreement lies in the details, and in the ability of one party or the other to manipulate or obstruct progress.

Mulumba lays out the details of the current dispute. Based on the Daily Nation article, here’s my readout on the key points of disagreements at present between the northern and southern government (major hat-tip to Mulumba for laying out the issues so clearly in his article):

1. Who should vote: NCP says all southerners, including those in the North, should vote; SPLM thinks this is a recipe for rigging. NCP wants voter list for referendum to be based on the census results, but SPLM disputes those results. (This is also a problem in the national electoral process currently underway; these elections, now scheduled for April 2010, have already been postponed twice).
2. Where the Referendum Commission’s head office should be: NCP has stated that they want the commission’s head office to be in Khartoum, while the SPLM is calling for the head office to be in Juba.
3. Composition of the Referendum Commission: The CPA mandates that the Commission would have nine members – three from the Government of National Unity, and six from the Government of Southern Sudan, or GoSS. But the NCP now wants 15 members for the Commission, with 10 from the Government of National Unity (the coalition North-South government based in Khartoum) and 5 from GoSS.
4. Which security forces should monitor the vote: NCP wants the North’s Sudan Armed Forces to monitor the exercise in the South. The SPLM says the CPA mandates that exactly who will be charged with security in the South for the referendum, and that according to the CPA, these forces must be from the southern army, or SPLA, and the Joint Integrated Units, or JIUs.
5. What will be written on the referendum ballot: NCP wants the two choices on the ballot to read "Unity" and "Secession." SPLM wants a "single-issue" ballot, with the options listed as "Yes" or "No."
6. Threshold (percentage of population that must vote for secession for secession to occur): NCP wants a 75 percent threshold for secession. SPLM wants simple majority for secession.
7. International monitoring of the process: Parties can’t agree. The NCP reportedly submitted a letter to Ashraf Qazi, the head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS, a few months ago to solicit UNMIS’ advice on carrying out a referendum and asking for comparative examples of other referenda recently held in other countries and semi-autonomous regions. However, it is unclear if the two parties have discussed their stances on how the referendum process should be monitored by the international community.