Sudan’s former civil war foes failed to agree on how to conduct a referendum on independence for the south yesterday, with one side blaming a lack of trust.
North and south Sudan fought a two-decade war that ended with a peace deal in 2005, but tensions remain and time is running out to prepare for two deadlines in the accord a national election scheduled for 2010 and the referendum in 2011,Reuters reports.
Leaders from both sides meeting in the south’s capital Juba said they had failed to reach an agreement on how the referendum should be organised and had not even got round to discussing a contested census, a building block for elections.
The failure will raise fears for the roll-out of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the oil-producing nation, where analysts have said wrangling over politics and disagreements over the sharing of oil revenues could reignite conflict.
Armies from the two sides have clashed since 2005 and the south has said it will not accept any delay to the referendum.
“We are very disappointed that while we had excellent discussion, we were not able to reach an agreement on the referendum law or the issues that are part of the referendum law,” US Sudan envoy Scott Gration told reporters at the end of two days of US-backed talks.
The lead negotiator for north Sudan’s dominant National Congress Party Ghazi Salaheddin said the sides had only managed to agree on one issue a definition of who was eligible to vote in the referendum.
“We have to bear in mind this (the referendum) has always been a very critical issue and very difficult issue to discuss. On the question of referendum, there is so much misgiving and suspicion and distrust that need to be cleared away.”
The parties had identified nine sticking points, including the proportion of voters who would have to vote for independence for it to be granted, said Malik Agar, head of the delegation for the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
“They (the north) want 75 percent and we’re talking 50 plus one,” said Agar, one of the SPLM’s deputy leaders.
The parties said discussions would continue, although they had not set a date for another meeting.
Most southerners, who have bitter memories of the civil war, are thought to favour independence. Many northern officials are nervous about the prospect of losing the south, which produces most of Sudan’s oil wealth.
Two million people were killed and 4 million fled between 1983 and 2005 as Sudan’s Muslim north and mainly Christian south battled over differences in ideology, ethnicity and religion.
The war is separate from Sudan’s Darfur conflict which flared in 2003, when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing Khartoum of neglecting the remote western region. Gration is due to visit Darfur and Khartoum over the weekend.