Articles and Analysies
Was SPLM justified in calling for Unilateral Declaration of Independence? By Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr, UGANDA (New south sudan)
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Aug 18, 2009 - 2:00:18 PM

Was SPLM justified in calling for Unilateral Declaration of Independence ?

By Rengo Gyyw Rengo,  Jr, UGANDA   (New south sudan)


Yes, the hour of final adieu in South Sudan is impending! Pagan Amum, SPLM Secretary-General’s positive reactions at SPLM Headquarters in Khartoum towards the most decried plans to thwart Southern Sudanese referendum by the Northern Sudanese Arabs represented by the GoNU dominated National Congress Party, has drawn or awakened  world’s attention towards the unfolding political process in effecting the CPA’s sanctioned plebiscite in South Sudan.

Inquisitive to the indepth of that news, citizens of the regions have drawn closer to Southern Sudanese everywhere in expression of solidarity towards the duly and timely implementation of the referenda clause. Referenda in South Sudan and Abyei scheduled for 2011 and Popular Consultations in disputed provinces of Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains are fundamental provisions of the CPA between the National Congress party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM].

At the zenith of the news carrying unilateral declaration as an inevitable option left for the south/SPLM to undertake, I was prompted to look at the Machakos Protocol signed by the parties on July 20th 2002.

According to Machakos article 1.3, it states “That the people of South Sudan have the right to self-determination, inter alia, through a referendum to determine their future status” between unity and secession to create its independence state. Article 2.5 states “At the end of the six (6) year Interim Period there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the GOS and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession.”

As we wind up with the fourth year of the interim period, it remains to be stated categorically that the CPA implementation is coarsely done, with several aspects such as the north-south border demarcation, pre-interim elections, wealth sharing, democractic transformations, realization of human rights and freedom etc not implemented. In October 2007, SPLM had pulled out of the unity government due to slow or lack of implementation of the CPA by her peace partner, the NCP.

While certain aspects of the CPA do not act as inviolable prerequisites for the referenda, referendum itself is inevitable. That is, though, they “parties” have eluded implementation of the above aspects, referenda are seen inevitable, not adjustable and inviolable. Implementation of these referenda [Abyei and South Sudan] clause ensures Sudan’s permanent’s solution to her ad infinitum problems. The SPLM and people of Southern Sudan upto this point in time believe that Sudan without referendum is Sudan without peace.  

Racing against time, perfidiosity and duplicity in implementing referendum, albeit not sure of next year’s 2010 elections, whether they will be there or not, the parties are inevitably charged by the CPA to draw up laws that shall govern the conduct of the referenda in 2011.

Chapter 1 article 11 [1][2] of the Southern Sudan Consitution says, referendum shall be conducted “six months before the end of the six-year interim period, shall be an internationally monitored referendum for the people of Southern Sudan organized by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission in cooperation with the national Government and the GOSS.

[2] the people of Southern Sudan, voting on a single ballot and by majority vote, shall either:

[a] confirm unity of the sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the comprehensive peace agreement, ...

[b] vote for secession.”

NB. The referendum is supposed to take place in June 2010, six months before January 9 2011.  The six months before January 9, 2011 surrogates with Machakos protocol  artilce 2.  which establishes that “There shall be a Pre-Interim Period, the duration of which shall be six (6) months.”  Basing on this, already referendum is time badly. That means pushing interim elections to next year was planned deliberately to preempt the referendum in June 2010! Will elections and referendum fit at the same time? Will both be conducted? Kiir is believed to have commented early this month that, even if elections are forgone, referendum must take place as scheduled.


What constitutes the referenda laws?  What are the components? The joint organization of referendum by GOS and SPLM is tasked to draw and agree on  some of  the following:

1)   Referendum Commission headquarters,

2)   chairmanship,

3)   composition of the Commission,

4)   voter definition, qualification and voting centers,

5)   percentage of votes required in the referendum to declare it, favoring independence,

6)   the population allowed to vote,

7)   determining the post-referendum process and the share of Sudan’s debts the South would carry with it if it secedes. [the latter two are NCP’s ]


Determining the above issues requires GoNU’s parliament to pass, approve and endorse the agreed terms timely between the parties SPLM and NCP. However, bad omen has been leaking out of the parliament since last month, first with what seemed to have been deliberate delay by the NCP in drawing up those laws. After pressurization by the SPLM which saw its peace partner acting out of insincerity and bad faith towards the referendum, the speaker of the National Parliament in Khartoum, Ahmed Ibrahim Al Tahir, burst out and reportedly said on the referendum law, that the NCP view is “based on the belief that they will not facilitate secession through a law”. This was after the SPLM urged the parliament not to go for recess before its approval on the referenda laws. Of course, the SPLM condemned not only that position but also those who uttered recklessly such statements, which pose to jeopardise peace.

Speaker’s statements drew intellectual protests from the southern Sudanese people everywhere. Dr. Justin Ambago Rambo, who quoted in his article published in southsudannation noted Speaker’s words as follows: that “since they (NCP) are against the secession of the south, they are not going to hide what they intent to do as they will be working hard to come up with referendum laws that would render the secession of the south something very difficult if not impossible to be attained”.

This created a spirit of watchfulness and vigilance since Khartoum statements are manifestation of political bankruptcy and deceitful plans. However, we knew and presumed the parties would sort out that mess without necessarily prompting strong utterances. Sometimes, some statements are individualized, despite the speaker being the leader of the parliament house.

On July 17, 2009, President Beshir on a visit to Egypt said, “we are for the unity of the Sudan and we also believe that many of our fellows in the SPLM share the same feelings with us. For this reason, we are doing our level best to work hand in hand in formulating the referendum laws. These shall be laws that will bring the end result of the referendum to favour the unity of the country since we both believe that unity is the best option for the Sudan ”. (Al Sharq Al Awsat, July 2009). It became extremely clear that Khartoum ’s failure to make unity attractive by transforming itself, coupled with fear of secession is getting into the referendum laws. We could not keep quite anymore because there a danger. History is bound to repeat itself before the past wounds are healed.


Many things must have gone under the tunnel to saturation since mid July 2009, leading to SPLM’s reaction in which it invoked the need for UDI, given the frustrations on those laws. On August 10, 2009 (KHARTOUM), the SPLM  gave a stern warning  that Southern Sudan might resort to unilateral declaration of independence if no agreement is reached with the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) on the referendum law. The SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum speaking at the party’s headquarters in the Sudanese capital said that the choice of unity versus independence is contingent upon the realization of the “true interests” of Southerners. Amum accused the NCP of placing “unrealistic” conditions for the referendum to take place.

In his own words, Pagan, talking to the BBC said, “we are warning the national Congress -we are also alerting the people of Southern Sudan –that we have a serious problem. We are not threatening anything at all, we are saying that any attempt to deny the people of Southern Sudan the right to self-determination will force them to declare a unilateral independence”[observer Uganda newspaper, Thursday August 13-16 2009, issue 041, p.3]

It is necessary to explore some of these unrealistic conditions the NCP would want to use to thwart the referendum before taking sides.  Some people took side in previous weeks and taking sides sentimentally is wrong.


The main issues being discussed on the referendum law include,

1)   percentage of votes required in the referendum to declare it, favoring independence,

The NCP is pushing for a 75% ‘Yes’ vote for South Sudan to be allowed to secede. The SPLM has rejected that because 75% is unprecedented, against the convention and tradition. The tradtion in all election, presidential or referenda the world over talks simple majority which is normally percentaged at 51% of the total registered votes cast. This is realistic. Therefore, the SPLM prefers the conventional law of simple majority at the margin of 51%  of the total voters. If they total voters are 10 people, then 6 people consitute 51% of the total votes. If total registered voters are 30 people, then 16% makes a simple majority for declaring people’s independence. The law of simple majority is global and ever applied in all countries where such referenda had been sucessfully held. One may name Eritrea, Quebec, Ireland, Alaska, etc. “we are saying the referendum should be a simple referendum like all referendum that have been conducted in the world. They have always been conducted with a simple majority”, asserted the SPLM SG.

2)   The Population Allowed To Vote,

Furthermore, the SPLM rejects the participation of Southerners living outside the South in the referendum while the NCP pushes for their participation. The same NCP rejected southerners outside the country to be counted in the country’s fifth census conducted last year 2008.  Khartoum wants to use the Population of Southern Sudan predictably to suit her interests of maintaining fake unity.

The head of international media at the NCP Abdel-Rahman Al-Zouma told the Qatar based Al-Jazeera Arabic TV that his party wants the referendum to include all Southerners “and not just the SPLM,” saying the latter wants limited participation.  The “not just the SPLM“ is a fallacy and misconception, if not based on pure politics. It is not the SPLM that is going to vote but the whole Southern Sudanese citizens irrespective of their political formations and ethnicities.  Even outside, there are SPLM members! The NCP’s erroneous belief all southerners outside Southern Sudan could easily be fooled to vote for unity is an obvious agenda.

Our argument is that, referendum shall be limited to those present in Southern Sudan at the time of the referendum. There will be no ballot boxes outside Southern Sudan. Internally, that population quota will determine our future. The NCP’s fears is that, it perceives southern sudanese contemporarily in the south as those spoiled by the Movement, given the alliance made in 2007 between the SPLM and southern opposition parties in Juba, in which all our trational opposition parties pledged to support SPLM in the realization of the long awaited destiny. Opposition in Juba, unlike SPLM describes the future of southern Sudan in black and white. The long time political leader, Surur Sabur during the SPLM 2nd National Convention protested the continued invocation of the idea of the New Sudan, which to him is a wastage to the people’s struggle. The whole convention turned into a laughter. But I guess his point was home!

Notwithstanding  that, the old Arab culture of political bribery using huge lumps sum of monies has been rendered useless by southerners all over  Southern Sudan. Late in 2006, Salva Kiir summoned his children to the truth. He told Southern Sudanese people, that the northern Sudanese’s culture of bribing you against your destiny is rampant now. He underscored that “if you are given that money, eat it and do not do what they say. No one will be victimized you of eating it. It is our money from the oil wealth which they use against us”. After trying to bribe few southerners, their mission never beared fruits!

Now, the Ali Alhaj strategy of hard currecy briefcases is totally discarded. NCP’s is no longer flooding money in Southern Sudan now, because there are too many consumers and no enemy’s workers. Thanks to our people who have understood their destiny agansit the enemy’s self-defeating plans.

Besides that, peace saboteurs and trained assassins used to be sent to southern sudan kept surendering themselves to authorities and their people, leaking out Khartoum plans. That too was foiled. 

Lastly, NCP’s members in South Sudan are defecting to SPLM. What Khartoum never knew was that these members were never genuine members of the National Islamic Front [now renamed NCP] in the first place. Some were there to bring back our resources. Just last week, it was reported that in Warrap, over 200 NCP supporters have defected to join SPLM. [August 13, 2009, SUDANTRIBUNE).

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Abur Chol, a NCP chairperson and Lino Majok Achien, Secretary for popular and syndicate organizations, confirmed their resignation from NCP to SPLM state secretariats. "The NCP office is closed down because we have gone away with all members of the National Congress Party in the State. No one is left. All our youth and women have come with us," they said. Lino Majok said, "today South is engaged in tribal wars supported by NCP and as a southerner, I do not have a reason to support a party against the interest of my own people."

Warrap enmassed defections shows NCP how the south is united and ready for her destiny. Prominent southerners who were in the NCP have left one by one. For example, Tor Deng, former GOSS deputy Speaker representing NCP in GOSS then defected early 2007 and became a governor.

So, it is all these loss of support in Southern Sudan, that NCP fears. It believes that,  those  southerners outside may support them for realization of unity because there is a presumption that their minds are not saturated towards our destiny of independence, forgeting that the realities of the day speak for themselves. Khartoum can not determine who will vote in Southern Sudan.  Consitution defines who is a southerner Sudanese as well as the age limit.

Reiteratingly, referendum shall be limited to only those present at the time in Southern Sudan. Since this is going to be a destiny’s voting, those southerners outside will descend back to Southern Sudan before referendum starts to be registered and participate in the epoch making referendum, first of its kind for our people.

3)    Voter Definition

Southern Sudan Constitution chapter 2 article 48[1] on citizenship, rights and duties states that “every person born to a Sudanese mother or father shall have an inalienable right to enjoy Sudanese nationality and citizenship”

Chapter 2 on southern Sudan right to self-determination, article 9[2] states “any southern Sudanese who has attained the age of eighteen shall have the right to vote in the referendum.”

9[3] [a] states “... a southern Sudanese is: any person whose either parent or grandparent is or was a member of any of the indigenous communities existing in southern Sudan before or on January 1, 1956; or whose ancestry can be traced through agnatic or male line to any one of the ethnic communities of southern Sudan; or

[b] any person who has been permanently residing or whose mother and/or father or any grandparent have been permanently residing in southern Sudan as of January 1,1956”

4)   Qualification and Voting Centers,

As long as a southerner is above 18 years, shall qualify to vote in a referendum. Enemy’s tendrils has been going around and behind south Sudanese borders where Sudanese government issues Sudanese passports and National IDs [jinsia] to people of northern Uganda especially in Gulu where they have a consulate. Sudan government operates in Gulu and Aliwara in DR Congo, just on the borders, yet the Embassy is in Kampala. Sudanese passoprts and Jinsia are no longer carried by Sudanese only, being used by Khartoum emissaries in Southern Sudan to undermine, or snoop information out of Southern Sudan from government’s offices, or foment corruption and insecurity to undermine the capacity of GOSS.

Therefore, a Sudanese can no longer be defined by his/her national Identity card or passport! That means, all the voters in southern Sudan are going to be issued with new voters cards which I think should have been or being done in time.  Southern Sudanese are being denied jobs now simply because they do not have Jinsias, the so-called national ID but Jinsias are going out to non-Sudanese Citizens. Who can deny this truth?

5)   Determining The Post-Referendum Process and the Share Of Sudan’s Debts the South would carry with it if it secedes. [NCP after wasting Sudan, acquiring debts for cliques and mujahadeen, wants to apportion her problems with the underdevelopment of south]

When it comes post-referendum process and share of Sudan’s debts the south would carry with it if secedes, how can the parties discuss a pregnant agenda? It should give birth first before they talk of debts and what have you. What if the south opt for unity? Will there be need for pre-determining the share of debts? Post referendum prcoess and debts can be discussed between the time of Declaration Of Independence and announcement of the results, that is if the secession is carried.

It is a double standard for Khartoum to talk of debts and unity, which is which? If she opts for us to share debts, she should let go of unity because the message about debts implies acceptance to independence of Southern Sudan. Otherwise, if she is for unity, then the question of debts does not arise now.

6)   The seat of referendum commission is awarded to Khartoum. Chairmanship and composition are yet to be determined. Definately, chairmanship will be contested. Of course one side had aforethought agenda, though still in the pipe, when the South was awarded the  electoral commission chairmanship! If that will be the case, I shall term the act as unjustifiable. But maybe we should not cross the bridge before we arrive to it.

After all these trembles and political seismics, was Pagan Amum justified in calling for UDI? I'm not a dictator to force people to buy my perception, which is affirmative in regards to Pagan’s position if things do not go well as planned. Pagan said, he is alerting the people of Southern Sudan that there is a serious problem. Indeed, there is a serious problem!

Unfortunately, sometimes, there are people whose emotions go before their rational reasoning and facts, this leaves genuine fighters like Pagan Amum bewildered and wondering. Following Pagan’s annoucement of would-be UDI, serious condemnations were uttered. My reasoning differs from what others think, that does not justify my authenticity. I still fall short of some issues but I give them time to come up with beneficial understanding of those issues.

The Machakos protocol 2.4.2  states, “the Parties shall work with the Commission during the Interim Period with a view to improving the institutions and arrangements created under the Agreement and making the unity of Sudan attractive to the people of South Sudan.” however, given Khartoum deliberate agenda of trying to thwart referenda simply because it has failed to make unity attractive to  the Southern Sudanese People, what choice is there for the SPLM?  Remember, referendum and SPLA are the main marrow of the agreement, without which the CPA would not have been signed. I beg. Those were the two highest mountains ever climbed in the history of our struggle.

The CPA talks of free will, choice and consent for the Sudanese people to decide their destiny. Antithetically, we're made to understand that khartoum calls the secession a red line for the government. When a redline is drawn, that means there must be a war to cross the redline in layman language. For this case, NCP has drawn a redline and the SPLM must cross the redline!  

Mandoor Al-Mahdi, the head of the NCP’s political bureau said that “any such move would be a "new rebellion against the constitution" adding that the goverment will respond accordingly”.

In July 2009, president Bashir warned that the secession of the South “will open the appetite of separatists in any position in the North and South and Africa whose borders were determined by the colonial powers.” This shows us nothing than pre-meditated and manoevered outcome of the referendum.

Mandoor refers to a consitution, since there are two operating consitutions in the north, Islamic and CPA national interim Consitution [later being friendly to the referendum],  I do not know which constitution he is referrring to. If it is Islamic consitution which is seeking to deprive southern Sudan of her referendum, we shall rebel against and fight tooth and nail, forever and ever.

And if is a CPA created national interim constitution, then the NCP is violating it and we shall equally fight it. Failure to implement the referendum violates the constitution in the first place. For this case, who is violating the constition before we talk of rebels?

It was equally reported that US special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, had expressed worry that skipping the already delayed 2010 national elections may make it very difficult to hold credible referendum in Abyei and South Sudan in 2011. He is right to express worries over the referendum and its hurdles, among which is the Khartoum itself which he tried to help last month by the act of sanction-lifting.

Mr. Gration last month made a daring call to save Sudan from self-inflicted sanctions brought about by her support to terrorism internally and externally, arguing that lifting sanctions would help the Southern Sudanese people to develop. Realistically, we do not need development, we need liberty, independence and soverneigty to initiate our development.

I'm a student of development and I know what develeopment is all about. You can not develop amidst wars, insincerities and fake geographical nationhood. There must be a viable state established under democratic values and human rights  to carry out all round development.

Up to this juncture, what prompted Mr. Amum‘s statements, I think, is bigger and serious problem which needs our full support so that the referendum takes place as planned. I repeat, time has elapsed. Six months before January 9, 2011 are begining next year in June 2010!

With referendum, Southern Sudanese will vote 99%, and without referendum, 100% vote for the gun, not unity as Khartoum wants it to be.

Eritrean’s official results of the internationally monitored referendum on independence, held April 23-25, 1993 indicated that over 98 percent of the more than 1,173,000 registered voters actually voted, of whom 99.8 percent voted yes on independence of Eritrea. This resulted from their long historical struggle which began in 1959.



Following pagan Amum’s statement on the possible state of UDI, parties NCP and SPLM have agreed to establish an eight-member joint committee to narrow differences with regard to the referendum law.

The NCP consists of four members namely Idriss Mohamed Abdel-Gadir, Mohamed Al-Mukhtar, Marwa Gaknoun and Abdel-Rahman Ibrahim,  while the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM)  team consists of Michael Makuei, Weik Mamir, Deng Ashwil and Paulio Wanwila [their names must have been written in Khartoum because they sound distorted]. [August 2, 2009 (KHARTOUM)] This eight member team is tasked to harmonize the differences which would have caused or led to consummation of Unilateral Declaration of Independence!


Referendum is the beginning of our struggle. The former US State Department special envoy to Sudan, Roger Winter, last month hinted to the US lawmakers that the South may be forced to unilaterally declare independence if the referendum “is frustrated by Khartoum’s actions and/or the hollow commitments of the international community,”.

Recalling the Irish bloodiest struggle against the British colonization of Ireland, Danny Morrison, Irish Nationalist who did not believe in one solution to the problem once said, “Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand, and an armalite rifle in this hand, we take power in Ireland.”  What he meant, was the gun-and-ballot box strategy in achieving the Irish freedom. We have been led to believe in empty promises for so long so that our ears can not accommodate any more, more lies.

I'm seeing no other way than the two approaches being used interchangeably. Peaceful referendum seems to be suffocating and strangling. And that will naturally put peace at stake. We know not any other way of judging the future except by their words and past deeds.

Khartoum shall always take the first laugh; the last laugh shall go the people of the Southern Sudan. This article acts to reinforce Pagan Amum on his call to the People Of Southern Sudan to be alert and vigilant because there is a serious political problem. The era of bidding final adieu to the Geographical Sudan has approached and we must get prepared to embrace what belonged to us.

Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr is a university student undertaking a Bachelor of Arts in Developmet Studies in Nkumba University Uganda. Comment to [ [email protected]]


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