Khartoum, 21 December - While the European Union announced it is preparing to dispatch a 110-member team of observers to Sudan to oversee the secession referendum, that is to be held on 9 January, south Sudanese leader Salva Kiir passed the weekend in Kampala in a quest for military support and a supplement of African political backing for his secessionist campaign.
Before Kenya stepped in and heavy equipment could be supplied on roads constructed for the purpose by Western supporters from Kenya's harbours into southern Sudan, Uganda had for decades been the main hub for the south Sudanese secessionist movement. Kiir, who is also Vice-President of Sudan, is reported to have appealed to the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to put in his weight to help calm the difficult situation that is likely to ensue after the secessionist referendum.
Diplomatic and military observers fear the outcome of the referendum will trigger a mass exodus of Sudanese refugees towards Uganda amid an outbreak of war over the disputed Abyei region, with its ethnic and tribal mix of populations. The recent armed clashes of Salva Kiir's SPLA forces with those of rival south Sudanese leader George Athor and the unsettled dispute over the actual borders between a future North and South Sudan are foreboding of bloodshed to come.