The two referenda on self-determination slated for January in Sudan must be held on time, in a credible manner and in line with the 2005 peace pact that ended the long-running north-south civil war, members of the Security Council, who are just back from a visit to the country, said today.
On 9 January the inhabitants of southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, while the residents of the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or the south.
The referenda will be the final phase in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in 2005 to end two decades of conflict between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.
“The purpose of our visit was to underscore that the UN Security Council is united in its desire to see Sudan’s referenda on self-determination carried out in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States, who led the southern Sudan leg of last week’s mission, told a meeting of the Council.
“We delivered the message that the referenda should be held on time, that they should be credible, and that the results must be respected,” she added.
In addition to expressing support for the referenda, the visit was also intended to assess the status of preparations for the polls, as well as the efforts of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to support CPA implementation.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a three-member UN panel to monitor the referenda, at the request of the Sudanese Government. The group is currently on a week-long visit to the country that includes stops in Khartoum, as well as Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.
Following its meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir today, the panel’s chair, Benjamin Mkapa, told reporters that his team has been assured by both parties to the CPA that they want a successful conclusion to the referenda process.
He stressed that while there is much ground to cover before the referenda can be held on 9 January, “the hurdles are not insurmountable and I believe the leadership is honourable, willing and very capable of guiding this process to a successful conclusion.”
The Council’s visit also took members to Darfur, where they met with senior officials from the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID), as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations that provide much-needed assistance in the strife-torn region.
The ongoing insecurity in Darfur and restrictions on humanitarian access were among the main issues during that leg of the trip, according to Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom.
“We returned with deep concerns about the security situation in Darfur and its impact on civilians, and about the continuing restrictions on access by UNAMID and humanitarian workers,” he said.
“We also returned with a renewed conviction of the need for all parties immediately to cease hostilities and the need for all rebel groups to join the peace process immediately and without preconditions. That is the only way that progress will be made towards a comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur,” he added.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, today voiced concern by limitations on humanitarian access in view of intensified fighting in parts of Eastern Jebel Marra in Darfur.
Welcoming the recent access by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to some parts of Eastern Jebel Marra, he called on parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access on a regular basis.
Mr. Charpentier also noted recent assurances from the Sudanese Government that access will be enlarged and sustained to allow for coverage of the national immunization campaign that started today.
The Council’s trip began in Uganda, where they visited the UN logistics support base in the city of Entebbe and met with the country’s President, Yoweri Museveni, during a segment led by Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for this month.