ADDIS ABABA - The African Union Commission has called on the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the upcoming referendum on Southern Sudan, slated for January 9, 2011.
Mr Ramtane Lamamra, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, made the call in Addis Ababa, at the opening of the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan.
The AUHIP is chaired by the former South African President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, with the former Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Abdussalam Abubakar, Mr. Pierre Buyoya, former President of Burundi and some other prominent African leaders as members.
“We expect the Government of Sudan to provide the required political space and environment, including security, for this exercise to take place unhindered,’’ he said.
Lamamra said the AU also expected and “calls upon the armed movements, which aspire to represent the people of Darfur, to participate fully in the negotiations.
“Irrespective of any progress in the negotiations, or lack thereof, it is the sovereign responsibility of the Government of Sudan to protect its citizens, promote the safe return of IDPs to their areas of origin, facilitate humanitarian assistance and development in accordance with the country’s Constitution,’’ he said.
He said a particular concern of the AU had been to promote progress towards justice and that the Commission was dismayed by the continuing loss of life in Darfur in particular and by the massacre at Tabara in September.
“In this regard, we underline the responsibility of the Government of Sudan to bring the perpetrators to justice and we are encouraged by the recent steps in this direction,’’ he said.
Lamamra said the dedication, vision and leadership of Mbeki, Buyoya and Abubakar were the most practical expression of the AU’s and the continent’s solidarity with the people of Sudan.
“Exceptional times require exceptional leadership and we have every confidence that the Sudanese political leaders will rise to the challenges of this historic moment and the trust placed in them by the people of Sudan,’’ he said.