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SUDAN HIGHLY POLARIZED AHEAD OF REFERENDUM

Afrik.com - October 12, 2010

As the referendum that could see Sudan split into two nations nears, the governments of north and south Sudan continue to accuse each other of preparing a military stockpile on the proposed borderline. The issue remains the main source of worry to UN delegates dedicated to avoid conflict in the country.

by Konye Obaji Ori

"The two armies, the tribes on the borders and the local politicians have all got to be restrained," A UN delegate was quoted as saying.

Although South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir asked the UN Security Council to deploy peacekeepers along the disputed borderline before the January 2011 referendum votes, no promise was made.

According to reports, much will depend on any final accord over the borderline, the sharing of the major oil revenues and the citizenship of northerners and southerners who live on the other side of the border.

North Sudan believes the south is gearing up for war should any delays occur, whilst south Sudan believes the north is prepared to block the referendum and wage war with the south should they [south Sudan] take to arms in protest.

Though many northern Sudanese took part in a government sponsored pro-unity rally in Khartoum on Saturday, south Sudan seems definite to choose secession. But while South Sudan’s independence is inevitable, experts say the result must be respected whichever way it falls.

Polarized

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti’s statement to UN delegates that northern Sudan did not want "war" over the independence vote, but it would not accept the result if there was "interference" is an indication of a highly polarized country ahead of the crucial polls.

Meanwhile, experts see Karti’s comments as a veiled warning of war should the north perceive any foul play by the south.

On Saturday as the UN envoys met Sudan’s foreign minister, north Sudan demonstrators and police clashed with a small group of South Sudan activists in Khartoum.

Co-leader of the UN mission to Sudan along with US ambassador Susan Rice, insist the issue of accusations from either side would have to be decided for the votes to go ahead.

While the issue of accusations remains a point of worry for the UN Security Council, concerns have been raised over a rise in violence in Darfur, the western region where at least 300,000 people have been killed since 2003, according to UN estimates.

Experts also warn that preparations for the independence referendum are behind schedule, and tensions are high.





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