Sudan needs more funds for referendum, report says
By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan needs more cash and support from donor countries if its national elections and a southern referendum on independence are to take place safely, the body monitoring the north-south peace deal said on Thursday.
The 2005 pact ended two decades of civil war in Africa's largest country. However, its implementation has been slow, as has the delivery of almost $5 billion pledged by donors to develop the war-ravaged south.
Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years are due in less than three months and a referendum is scheduled in southern Sudan next January on whether to secede from the north.
"Delays in disbursement (of donor funds) have also impacted delivery of (peace) related programmes," the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) said in a report.
With the conflict in the western region of Darfur grabbing the headlines, there has been less international focus on implementing the north-south peace deal, which took more than a decade of negotiations and pressure to achieve.
Commission chairman Derek Plumbly stressed the need for rapid development in areas devastated by the war and urgent cash injections to prepare for the 2011 vote on secession in the south and ensure a smooth transition, whatever the result.
"Funding for the referendum, including from the international community, needs to be front loaded so we don't have the situation we had with the elections ... where delays occur," Plumbly told reporters after releasing the report.
The presidential and legislative elections have been delayed several times partly because of a lack of funds from the government and donors, but also because of stalling by the former north-south foes over the formation of an election commission and in passing an election law.
"The time available to put arrangements in place is extremely limited ... the referendum commission needs to be established and become operational without delay," the AEC report said.
The former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which formed a coalition government with the northern National Congress Party in 2005, has made it clear it will not agree to any delay in the referendum, due on January 9.
Mistrust between the SPLM and NCP has grown during the delay in the implementation of the deal. On Thursday the SPLM denounced the execution of five of its members in Khartoum charged with inciting riots and killing policemen.
"There was no evidence ...that they were responsible," said Yasir Arman, the SPLM's deputy secretary-general in the north.
"This was a political issue and there were many irregularities in the court proceedings," he added.
The five were among many people arrested after riots in 2005 in a Khartoum slum in which at least 17 civilians and police officers were killed as authorities tried to evict poor residents to clear land for commercial use.
Four of those executed were from Darfur and one was from south Sudan. They moved to Khartoum escape conflict, Arman said.
Sudan's Justice Ministry was not available for comment.