The comments from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, reported on state media, raised the stakes in a war of words between Khartoum and the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), five years after the sides ended decades of conflict with an accord.
In three months’ time, that peace deal is supposed to come to a climax with a referendum giving the people of the oil- producing south the right to decide whether to declare independence or stay part of Sudan.
Bashir “expressed his regret over the retreat of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (now the dominant party in the south) … from its commitment which was stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” reported state news agency Suna.
This happened through “the overt declaration of the SPLM leader (and south Sudan president) Salva Kiir, that he stands in favour of the separation of the south in the coming referendum,” Suna quoted Bashir as saying in a speech in Sirte, Libya.
The 2005 peace deal said northern and southern leaders must try to make unity “attractive” to southerners before the vote.
Bashir said he was still committed to holding the vote but both sides first had to agree the position of their shared border and how to share out oil, debt and Nile river water.
“He (Bashir) said a new conflict between the north and south will ensue if there was a failure to address these issues before the referendum and that such a conflict could be more dangerous than the one that took place before the peace agreement” said Suna, reporting on the speech which Bashir gave on Saturday. The last north-south conflict, Africa’s longest civil war, killed about 2 million people and forced 4 million to flee.
Bashir spoke as envoys from the U.N. Security Council wrapped up a visit to Sudan aimed at pressing both sides to hold the vote on time and avert a new civil war.
Any renewal of conflict in Africa’s largest country could spill into the nine states that border Sudan –– Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya and Egypt –– threatening the region’s economic success stories and complicating existing conflicts and allegiances.
Kiir, who is also first vice president of all of Sudan, angered Khartoum when he said he would not vote for unity in the referendum during a speech to supporters in the southern capital Juba earlier this month. –– Reuters.