The Security Council today urged parties to the 2005 peace pact that ended the country’s long-running civil war to take urgent action to ensure the holding of peaceful and credible referenda on self-determination in less than two months’ time.
Sudanese are slated to vote on 9 January on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country and also to determine the final status of Abyei, an oil-rich area in the centre of the country, as set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
In a presidential statement issued at the start of a high-level debate on Sudan, the Council urged the CPA parties to take urgent action “to ensure peaceful, credible, timely and free referenda that reflect the will of the people of South Sudan and Abyei, as provided for in the CPA.”
The 15-member body welcomed the start on Monday of voter registration for the Southern Sudan referendum, while underlining the need to make “rapid progress” on a way forward for Abyei’s referendum, outstanding CPA issues, and on resolving critical post-referendum issues such as security, border, citizenship, currency and natural resources.
The Council also reiterated its call for all parties to fully cooperate with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) as it carries out its mandate. This includes ensuring full, unhindered access and freedom of movement for UNMIS personnel and equipment, and for the delivery of referenda materials.
Addressing today’s meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is a “moment of critical importance” for the Sudanese people and for the sub-region, as the people of Southern Sudan prepare to exercise their right to vote on their future.
“To ensure that the referendum is conducted in an orderly fashion and that the Sudanese people peacefully accept the outcome, it is imperative that the process be credible and transparent, and that it reflect the aspirations of the population,” he said.
Mr. Ban added that notwithstanding the international community’s good will and support, the referenda are Sudanese processes. “The commitment of the international community cannot supplant the willingness of the parties to meet their responsibilities. The Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan and the Referenda Commissions must rise to this challenge.”
The world body is working with both parties on options for a possible augmentation of UN troops, to increase referendum and post-referendum security as well as its capacity to verify and monitor possible cease-fire violations and to protect civilians throughout the mission area.
However, the Secretary-General noted, the presence of UN troops will not be enough to prevent a return to war should widespread hostilities erupt.
“Only a demonstrated commitment by the parties to refrain from inflammatory statements, uphold the CPA ceasefire mechanisms and reassure the population of their willingness to work together, will succeed in maintaining peace,” he said.
Mr. Ban also stressed the “urgent” need to reach a comprehensive and inclusive settlement on the situation in Darfur, where renewed clashes are taking place on the ground between Sudanese Armed Forces and various rebel groups.
“The disturbing implication of this fighting is that the parties have not yet decided to give up the military path,” he said, adding that the role of the Council in spurring peace efforts remains “essential.”
“I urge you to help build bridges between North and South and, in the same spirit, to ensure that the fundamental imbalances fuelling conflict elsewhere in Sudan are addressed, so that Darfur can be brought into a stable, prosperous and equitable future for Sudan.”
Expressing its concern about the increase in violence and insecurity in Darfur, the Council reaffirmed its support for efforts to advance peace in the region.
“The Council strongly urges all rebel movements to join the peace process without further delay or preconditions, and all parties immediately to cease hostilities and engage constructively in negotiations with a view to finding a lasting peace in Darfur,” it said in the statement issued today.