Kenya PM warns UN, AU over Sudan referendum
- Kenya denies that it was assisting the government of Southern Sudan to re-arm
- Raila Odinga warned of a return to war if the Southerners are denied the freewill to determine their future.
Kenya is mobilising international support to avert political violence in Sudan through next year’s referendum on independence for the South.
In a statement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga warned the United Nations, the African Union and the USA against taking sides in the vote to determine the future of Southern Sudan.
Kenya also denied that it was assisting the government of Southern Sudan to re-arm as political violence looks even more imminent.
The PM’s statement came after reports from the AU meeting in Addis Ababa quoted the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon vowing to ‘avoid the secession of south Sudan in a referendum’ though he later retracted the comments.
The AU also appeared to oppose secession, a position that risks setting the international community against proponents of independence in the region.
Kenya played host to mediation talks that culminated in the signing of the CPA that ended 21 years of fighting between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/ Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLA/SPLM).
But Mr Odinga warned of a return to war if the Southerners are denied the freewill to determine their future.
“Given the unprecedented advances the CPA entrenched in promoting democracy, it has been distressing to learn that senior-most officials in the two organisations (UN and AU) oppose the referendum’s option of creating a sovereign nation in the South.”
“Having done so much to advance this historic process of self-determination, it is preposterous that anyone would now seek a predetermined outcome,” Mr Odinga told an international press conference at his Treasury office on Wednesday.
Such a stand, the PM noted, had the potential of undermining the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes.
On January 30 while addressing the AU head of States Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Mr Ban warned against a push for secession in the Sudan according to the Financial Times.
While the UN supports the referendum Mr Ban disclosed that the international community was looking for a formula that would satisfy both the South and North as long as the two antagonists remain united, comments that were supported by Jean Ping, the AU chairman.
However, Kenya which hosted the peace negotiations until 2005 when the CPA was signed on Wednesday took on the two organisations and asked them to remain neutral.
US which has been giving mixed signals about its position on the referendum, through its Special envoy to the Sudan, Scott Gration also came under criticism from Mr Odinga.
On the role of the US, he said: “We urge the US as a major international power to cooperate with us. Unilateralism will not help the process.”
Mr Odinga called on the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which was the convenor and overseer of the peace talks in Kenya to take lead in the ensuring the implementation of the CPA.
Igad, he noted, was familiar with all the issues concerning the CPA and was in a better position to resolve outstanding issues such border demarcations at the oil-rich Abyei region and the population census process.
These twin issues, Kenya said, must be resolved as a matter of urgency to avert any threats to prevailing fragile peace.
The permanent court of arbitration in The Hague in July ruled to split Abyei province but left control of the Heglig oil field with the national Government in Khartoum.
“At this delicate moment when so many issues need to be sensitively addressed in Sudan, I believe it is incumbent on all of us to assist the Sudanese to freely exercise the right to choose their future peacefully,” Mr Odinga said.
Kenya, the PM said, was committed to respect the outcome of a free and fair referendum, as he once again denied that the government was re-arming GOSS.
Mr Odinga termed allegations that Kenyan tanks have been spotted in the GOSS military headquarters as unfounded claims.
“There is no truth in the allegations. We issued a comprehensive statement in regard to he matter and any other claim is unfounded.”
Apart from the referendum, Sudan is also preparing to go into General Election this year after many decades.