South Sudan independence vote body divided: chief

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (BestGrowthStock) – The head of a commission organizing a vote on independence for southern Sudan said southern members were undermining preparations by working to exclude representatives of the north from a key post.

“If things continue like this I will just excuse myself that’s all,” Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil told Reuters in an interview.

Divisions have left referendum preparations at a standstill with no schedule to begin complex voter registration, which according to the law should have already been completed.

Khalil said the five southerners in the nine-member commission were voting together to block any attempt to allow any northerner to take the key post of secretary-general, a principle he said he could not accept.

The secretary-general controls the funds and budget of the commission and south Sudan’s ruling party has warned the deadlock could derail the vote — the climax of a 2005 landmark north-south peace deal which ended Africa’s longest civil war.

“This (commission) can only work if we can get people to be cooperative to have mutual trust … and to approach things objectively from a national point, not from the point of view of north and south,” the lawyer and former foreign minister said in an interview.

“With things as they are, all resolutions would be a foregone conclusion,” he said. “The five (southern) members are determined to vote as a block — to me this is just not acceptable, it makes a nonsense of the whole process.”

Aid agencies estimate some 2 million people died in Sudan’s north-south conflict over oil, religion, ethnicity and ideology. The war destabilized much of east Africa. Khalil said of the 63 positions outlined in the Referendum Law, 59 had already been filled by southerners. He said he had left the problem for the presidency to decide.

“I am not prepared to head a commission that works this way. With things are they are, all resolutions would be a foregone conclusion,” he said.

The former rebel turned south Sudan’s ruling party Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) blames the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) for years of delay leaving the commission with just six months to prepare for the emotional vote which most analysts believe will create the world’s newest nation.

The SPLM has warned if the referendum is delayed, the southern parliament would decide another plan for southerners to exercise their right to self-determination.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

South Sudan independence vote body divided: chief