Sunday, January 31, 2010

United Nations Secretary General Appeals for Sudan Unity

UN chief appeals for Sudan unity

The UN secretary general has urged African leaders to work for national unity in Sudan to avoid the south of the country seceding from the north.

Ban Ki-moon's appeal comes as the African Union is due to hold its summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Mr Ban said both the UN and AU had a big responsibility "to maintain peace in Sudan and make unity attractive".

A referendum is due next year on whether the oil-rich south should become independent.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will accept the result of the poll even if the south voted for independence.

The theme of the three-day AU summit in Addis Ababa is information and technology.

But heads of states will also be discussing, among other issues, the escalating violence in Somalia and who will take over the AU chairmanship from Libya.

The position should go to Malawi, the choice of the southern African regional grouping, SADC.

But Libya wants to extend its one-year term and has Tunisia's support.

With eastern and southern African countries apparently solidly behind Malawi, it could be a bruising contest for the AU chairmanship, writes the BBC's Uduak Amimo.

High tensions

"Whatever the result of the [southern Sudan's] referendum we have to think how to manage the outcome," Mr Ban said in a joint interview with AFP and RFI radio.

"It is very important for Sudan but also for the region. We'll work hard to avoid a possible secession," he added.

Sudan's mainly Muslim north and the Animist and Christian South ended their two-decade war in 2005 and joined a unity government.

But tensions remain high as in April the country holds its first genuine multi-party national elections since 1986.

The south, which has a semi-autonomous government, is likely to vote to secede from the north in the 2011 referendum, correspondents say.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/01/31 03:35:11 GMT

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