Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flawed Vote in Sudan Could Spark War, Says Report

Flawed vote in Sudan could spark war: report

Saturday,30 October, 2010, at 12:01 PM Doha Time
Gulf Times

A disputed outcome in a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan could reignite one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest wars, an advocacy group warned yesterday.

The vote scheduled for January is the end-game of a 2005 peace deal ending more than two decades of civil war between northern and southern Sudan, and most experts predict southern Sudanese will vote to create the world’s newest nation state.

But the credibility of the ballot is under threat from logistical problems and from deliberate stalling on the part of northern politicians hostile to the prospect of southern independence, the not-for-profit Rift Valley Institute said.

“In the event of a vote against unity, a southern referendum with serious technical flaws would damage the legitimacy of secession,” the report entitled ‘Race Against Time’ said.

“A disputed result would hold serious risks in terms of a potential return to north-south military confrontation.”

The 65-page report said time pressure made it “increasingly unlikely that the (referendum) will be conducted without procedural deficiencies”. Lack of clarity in the voting process or the disenfranchisement of large numbers of voters could lead to questions about the result’s validity.

The northern ruling National Congress Party has said it would accept the referendum result but always adds the caveat “if it is a free and fair process”.

The report said the referendum commission had to exert a “Herculean” effort to ensure the referendum vote was perceived as fairer than presidential and parliamentary elections held in April this year, which were criticised by opposition groups.

The head of the southern referendum commission said on Thursday it would be a “miracle” if the vote took place on time given the tight deadline and logistical problems.

Some Security Council members have said they would accept a short technical delay. The report said this may be required to maintain the credibility of the vote.

lA regional meeting on the situation in Sudan which was due to start in Addis Ababa yesterday was postponed, diplomats said.

The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) summit was moved from Nairobi to Addis, notably over unease at Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s possible attendance, earlier this week.

But a meeting of foreign ministers yesterday due to kick off the two-day summit in the Ethiopian capital never took place.

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