August 8, 2010 (Khartoum) — Southern Sudan self-determination commission member Tarig Osman, who is also a prominent member of Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress party (NCP) said that Southern Sudan referendum vote should be delayed so that outstanding issues can be worked out.
The move comes as a surprise to South Sudanese who are on the move to cast their self-determination votes in five months.
"The remaining time is not enough to hold the referendum," commission member Tarig Osman told Reuters.
"We have only two choices — skip some of the procedures, which would be unacceptable because it could affect the endorsement of the referendum," Osman said. "The other choice is a limited delay to the referendum timetable to complete the procedures”, he added.
However, political science professor Dr Al Tayib Zain al-Abdin at Khartoum University warned that the commission should not take the decision to delay the vote itself.
“The commission cannot postpone the referendum without consulting the government of southern Sudan andthe government of national unity in Khartoum,” he told Radio France Internationale (RFI).
The SPLM, a ruling party in the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) cautiously hit back:
"Any attempt to delay the referendum … will be reneging on the peace deal and a danger to the overall process of peace in Sudan," SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum was quote by Reuters as saying.
Amum said that South Sudan’s parliament has power to decide on ways the people of South Sudan should exercise their rights to self-determination.
"One of them could be that the parliament of southern Sudan takes over the process of organising the referendum fully without the north if the obstruction is coming from the north," Amum told reporters in Khartoum.
"Another one would be carrying out a vote in parliament which is not necessarily a universal declaration of independence," he said, adding the 2005 deal allowed for this.
But Khartoum based NCP has made similar remarks before.
When the new Sudanese foreign minister took office, he started his work by making controversial statements about the upcoming Southern Sudan referendum, North-South border demarcation, and how difficult it will be if the country goes back to war.
"If we don’t agree on the results of the referendum, this could trigger a new war between north and South Sudan. It will be a difficult and tough war, different from the previous one because both sides are better equipped," militarily, Sudan foreign minister Ali Karti said in June.
"We cannot hold a referendum before the border is demarcated. The demarcation will help establish where people live and where (natural) resources are located," he added.
But the SPLM dismissed all the charges saying the NCP is trying to drag its feet on South Sudan referendum.
Karti, who is a leading figure within the National Congress party, is known by Southern leaders as somebody with conservative views.
The two main peace partners formed the nine member commission as part of their commitment to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The CPA which was signed on January 9, 2005, ended the bloody civil war between North and the South. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) allows the people of South Sudan to decide in next January whether or not they want to remain part of the united Sudan or form their own Independent State.