Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sudan: President Omar Al-Bashir accepts secession

Official referendum results have been announced in Sudan and President Omar Al-Bashir has said he accepts the South's secession.

The final result was formally submitted on Monday 7th February to al-Bashir by Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) head, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil , who said that a total of 98.83 per cent of people had voted for independence in the week long referendum which took place last month. Khalil said that no legal challenges had been lodged against the result and that the referendum was conducted in " a fair and transparent " manner.

Khalil presented the results to al-Bashir at Khartoum's presidential palace, with south Sudan leader Salva Kiir present.

Al-Bashir said he accepted the result: " We are with the choice of the southern citizen and sustaining peace in the north and the south ." Al-Bashir immediately issued a Republican Decree accepting the final result, which said, " We declare our acceptance of the southern Sudan people's choice and we pledge to work for resolving the outstanding issues and build constructive relations between north and south Sudan ."

Kiir welcomed al-Bashir's reaction, saying that it would pave the way for other countries to follow suit.

" If the north does not recognize the south no other state will ," Kiir said.

He highlighted that secession is not the end of the road, saying that the borders between north and south would only be ' on paper ' and that there would be freedom of movement of trade and citizens.

" We will not become enemies of each other and will make sure our relationship remains strong ," he said.

The announcement of official results was met with jubilation in the south, and thousands of people gathered at the John Garang mausoleum in Juba to hear the results being announced. Some expressed dissatisfaction that the results were being announced in Khartoum, rather than Juba, but that did not stop the celebrations taking place throughout the soon-to-be separate country.

The result was quickly welcomed by the international community. US President Barack Obama said he was pleased “ to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011 ." The US has said they will remove Sudan from the list of State's sponsoring terrorism if they accept the result.

Britain 's Prime Minister David Cameron also welcomed the announcement of the results and the postive reaction of the government in Khartoum. He pledged the UK will continue to support the settlement of the remaining issues.

The UN Secretary-General's Panel of the Referenda in the Sudan, which was established to monitor the process, gave the referendum the seal of approval and welcomed the result, saying it reflected the free will of the people of Southern Sudan.

Some in the north also celebrated the separation of the south. The separatist northern Sudanese Forum of Just Peace (FJP) slaughtered a bull outside the SPLM headquarters in Khartoum, chanting slogans such as " goodbye to unity of tears and blood " or " secession is the true independence ". Many of them wore t-shirts with a new map of North Sudan.

The FJP was founded by Al-Tayeb Mustafa , an uncle of President al-Bashir. He has been accused on inciting hatred and racism through his writing, especially in the journal ' Al-Intibaha' (The Alert), which is the mouthpiece of the forum.

Southern Sudan will become a new country on 9th July 2011, with the end of the six-year interim period, as dictated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement , which brought the twenty-year civil war to an end. There are still many outstanding issues between the north and the south that must be resolved by July, including how to deal with oil revenues, ownership of the Abyei region, and completion of the north-south border.

Sources: BBC News, Sudan Tribune

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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