CAIRO, Egypt – Preparations for Sudan’s referendum on southern independence are so far behind schedule that international diplomatic intervention is the only guarantee to prevent renewed civil war, Sudan activists warned today.
A 2005 peace agreement ended a 21-year civil war between Sudan’s mostly Muslim north and predominantly animist and Christian south that left some 2 million people dead. The deal set up a transitional unity government as well as an autonomous government in the south, and called for a referendum – slated for Jan. 9, 2011 – on independence for southern Sudan.
But activists from the Sudan 365 campaign warned that with around 100 days to go before the vote, there is still a slew of outstanding issues to be resolved.
“We are at the eleventh hour. Preparations for the referendum are woefully behind schedule and the risk of conflict is increasing,” said AlBakir Mukhtar Alafif, a Sudanese activist with the campaign.
The organizers of the campaign, including Human Rights Watch and Save Darfur Coalition, said the situation has deteriorated to a point that even if the referendum takes place on time, it could still have a devastating effect on civilians and regional security.
Sudan 365 also called on the U.N., the U.S., Egypt and other states that supported the peace deal “to honor their pledge to Sudan and to prevent diplomatic meltdown.”
Officials in north and south Sudan have yet to agree on many of the referendum’s details and post-vote fundamentals, such as border demarcation along the oil-rich north-south frontier and oil revenue sharing.
Southern officials have warned that if the vote is delayed they may simply declare independence.