Aid community unprepared for south Sudan secession vote: report

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Aid organisations need to prepare to support a likely new independent state and deal with possible violence around next year’s referendum on secession for southern Sudan, an advocacy group said.

US-based Refugees International said planning for the choice of independence was viewed as controversial for aid agencies, the United Nations and donors, but that they seemed unprepared for what is becoming a more and more likely scenario.
“This risks a situation where preparations are left to the last minute, when urgency will end up trumping the need for thorough coordination and consultation,” the group said after a research trip to south and central Sudan.

April’s first multi-party elections in 24 years are heightening tensions in the north and south and there are many uncertainties surrounding the January 2011 referendum, agreed under a 2005 north-south peace deal.

Controversial issues include defining citizenship, the north-south border and the currency.

The lack of clarity has led many of the millions of southerners living in the north to fear repercussions and consider leaving if the south becomes independent, as many believe it will.
“The humanitarian community must prepare to respond if conflict erupts around the upcoming political events,” the report said.

Many worry the war-devastated south with little infrastructure would not be able to handle a mass influx of southerners, sparking more conflict over scarce resources.

The south has been plagued by internal tribal fighting which killed an estimated 2 500 people last year alone.
“If south Sudan opts for independence in 2011, as looks likely, there will be considerable need for donor governments to support the Government of Southern Sudan to ensure that its structure and leadership are capable of successfully delivering services to its people and protecting them,” the report said.

Sudan’s north-south civil war claimed 2 million lives and drove more than 4 million from their homes, destabilising much of east Africa. It was fought over issues of ethnicity, ideology, religion and oil and some analysts worry a lack of planning ahead of the referendum could reignite conflict.

The United States, Britain and Norway and the EU are among the largest donors in Sudan.

Source: www.af.reuters.com