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South Sudan Accuses North of Withholding Referendum Funds

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South Sudan’s envoy to the United States and the United Nations has called on the international community to pressure President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) to provide its portion of funds needed to support the work of the referendum commission ahead of the 9th January referendum.

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, who is also a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) ruling council, told VOA, despite repeated appeals, President Bashir’s NCP has refused to provide funds for the commission to adequately prepare for the upcoming vote.

“It is very clear now that the National Congress Party is not interested in having the referendum conducted. So, they have been dragging their feet and the sign that is very clear now is that they are not actually paying their share (for the referendum),” said Gatkuoth.

“The referendum is basically being paid (for) by the government of southern Sudan as a whole, and the international community is contributing effectively in making sure that the referendum is conducted on time. That is why we are calling on the international community to pressure them (Khartoum) to release money.”

Officials of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) say the refusal of the NCP to financially support the referendum commission is yet another attempt by the governing party to derail south Sudan’s self-determination vote, a charge the NCP sharply denies.

The NCP has accused the SPLM of flouting the Referendum Act by intimidating and harassing prospective voters in the run up to the January vote.
But, Gatkuoth said there are indications that the NCP is disinterested in the referendum and, in his words, will do anything to sabotage the vote.

“We have discussed it many times with the NCP so that they can commit themselves to paying their share, but they are refusing. It is another tactic of them dragging their feet on the referendum implementation,” Gatkuoth said.
“We are actually rejecting any call for the referendum voting day to be extended or delayed for a day, or even a second. We are going to vote on the 9th of January 2011, and we are ready for a new nation.”

As part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), southern Sudanese will be allowed to vote in a referendum to decide whether to be part of the north or secede and become and independent country.

Article by Peter Clottey, VOA News