Sudan's al-Bashir in south calls for unity

08:19, January 05, 2011      

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in a visit termed by local media as "historical" in southern Sudan on Tuesday, called for unity of the African country, only days before a referendum in the autonomous region.

Addressing a reception ceremony in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, and lively aired by the state-run Sudan TV, the Sudanese president said that unity would be the most ideal choice to be taken by the southern Sudanese in the upcoming referendum slated for Sunday.

Describing the referendum as "the last period in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)", al- Bashir noted that the federal government in Khartoum was ready to recognize the results of the referendum should the true desire of the southern Sudanese people was expressed.

He reiterated his demand that the referendum should be held in a just, free and transparent atmosphere.

"We have agreed on the item of self-determination for southern Sudan after we have become convinced that unity could not be achieved by force. We still want unity, but if the southern Sudanese want to separate, then it is welcome," al-Bashir said.

"We will respect what the southerners would decide and we will be happy that we have achieved the comprehensive peace. We will not mourn in the north, but we will come to the south again to celebrate the establishment of the new state," added al-Bashir.

The Sudanese president reiterated the Sudanese people's ability to overcome the difficulties concerning south Sudan referendum, stressing that his country would not be a scene for fighting and that it would never witness any security tensions during or after the referendum.

"The world has waited to see armed clashes during the recent general elections, but we have let those expectations down and we will let them down again to affirm that the Sudanese people is civilized and capable of dealing with bitterness no matter what," he said.

He further regarded reaching the referendum stage as a victory for the will of the two partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to get with the CPA to its end, saying "with this referendum, we arrive with the CPA to its end and achieve real the peace."

Al-Bashir called on the northerners and the southerners to sustain the historical bonds between them even if the south separated, saying "we should work together to ensure continuation of the bonds between the two sides and we should achieve the same objectives that we wanted to achieve through unity."

The Sudanese president arrived in Juba earlier Tuesday to hold talks with Sudanese First Vice President and President of the southern Sudanese government Salva Kiir Mayardit on the preparations for the referendum as well as ways to iron out differences between the two sides in the remaining items of the CPA, inked by the Khartoum government and the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement in 2005 to end a decades-long civil war in Sudan.

The visit of President al-Bashir to Juba on Tuesday could be the last within the united Sudan as expectations were high that the southern Sudan referendum would result in dividing the biggest African country.

Al-Bashir's visit to Juba was the focus of Khartoum's daily newspapers issued Tuesday, where all the papers agreed that the visit was historical and has great importance as it is only five days ahead of the referendum.

The pro-government Akhir Lahza daily allotted its editorial for the president's visit where the paper's editor-in-chief Mustafa Abul-Azayem wrote that "President al-Bashir has done well with visiting Juba. In our opinion, the visit comes as part of the president's national duties as Sudan is still one country."

"From the partnership's prospect, the visit constitutes an important step to revise what has been done so far regarding the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and resolution of the outstanding issues along with post-referendum issues," he added.

Mohamed Abdel-Ghader, the editor-in-chief of the independent Al Rayaam daily, for his part said in his editorial that "Al-Bashir's visit to Juba today is a development that harmonizes with the challenges of Sudan which is burdened by coming concerns. It is really a historical visit."

"The visit will reassure the southerners and reflect to them keenness of the political leadership to fulfill the commitments of Naivasha and implementation of the self-determination item. It will also reassure the citizens in north Sudan on the future relation with the south," he added.

Despite the fact that the referendum date has become so close, the two sides have not managed to overcome many barriers regarding post-referendum arrangements besides differences over the oil-rich area of Abyei on the border between north and south Sudan.

Around four million southern Sudanese are expected to vote in the coming referendum, set for Jan. 9, 2011, to decide whether the region should remain united with the north or secede to establish an independent state.

South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) announced that it was hundred percent ready for conducting the referendum.

SSRC Deputy Chairman Chan Riek Madout stated that around four million southern Sudanese have registered to vote, 95 percent of them in the south.

Source: Xinhua

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