World leaders and high-ranking officials meeting at the United Nations today renewed their support for the parties to the 2005 peace accord that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war as they embark on the critical final phase of the agreement – the upcoming referenda on the self-determination of southern Sudan and the central region of Abyei.
Inhabitants of the south will vote on 9 January next year on whether to secede from Sudan or remain united with the rest of the country, as stipulated under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which formally ended two decades of fighting between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.
At the same time, residents of the central area of Abyei will vote separately on whether to retain the region’s special administrative status in the north or become part of Bahr el-Ghazal state in the south.
At a high-level meeting on Sudan, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the margins of the annual general debate of the General Assembly, delegations renewed their commitment to peace in the country.
“The participants voiced strong support to both CPA parties and confirmed their commitment to respect the outcome of credible referenda and to assist the Sudanese achieve sustainable peace throughout Sudan in the post-referenda period,” stated a communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting.
“They noted the delays in the preparations for the referenda and called for the urgent establishment of the Abyei Referendum Commission and for the acceleration of the work of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission,” it added.
In addition, delegations welcomed the commitment of the parties to quickly resolve critical post-referenda arrangements – including border management, security, citizenship, migration issues, debts, assets and natural resources – while also putting in place a framework to resolve all outstanding CPA-related issues in a peaceful, mutually beneficial manner.
Opening the meeting, which was attended by Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and First Vice-President Salva Kiir Mayardit as well as a host of other dignitaries, Mr. Ban said Sudan’s leaders and people face “critical, difficult” questions about their future.
“The stakes are high, for Sudan, for Africa, for the international community,” he said. “The Sudanese people cannot afford a resumption of conflict. We must all assist them in finding a peaceful way through one of the most important passages in their country’s history.”
The Secretary-General noted that the issues facing Sudan cannot be addressed in isolation but must be considered together as part of an overall vision for the country, with a focus on the rights and aspirations of all of its citizens.
While the parties have implemented many of the key CPA provisions without a return to serious conflict, the most important challenges are now less than four months away, he said, referring to the referenda.
“The international community has clear expectations for this process,” Mr. Ban told the gathering. “We expect the referenda to be peaceful, carried out in an environment free of intimidation or other infringements of rights. We expect both parties to accept the results, and to plan for the consequences.
“And finally, we expect the parties to adhere to the CPA, without unilateral acts on either side, North or South.”
The Secretary-General also stressed the need to continue working towards a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the strife-torn region of Darfur, where he noted the security situation remains a “grave concern,” particularly as it affects civilians and internally displaced persons (IDPs).