June 29, 2010 (New York) — The head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today welcomed the appointment of an independent body that will oversee preparations for a referendum on whether southern Sudan should secede from the rest of the country.
Haile Menkerios, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, congratulated the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission members who were endorsed earlier today by the country’s National Assembly.
The referendum, which is scheduled for next January, will be the final phase in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended a two-decade North-South civil war in Sudan. In April, the country held nationwide parliamentary and presidential elections – the first of their kind in 24 years.
In today’s statement, Mr. Menkerios urged “the two partners to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] to accelerate the formation of the long overdue Abyei referendum commission.”
The Abyei commission will be responsible for organising and running a separate referendum in the Abyei area in central Sudan, home to a large percentage of the country’s oil reserves. At issue is whether the area should retain its special administrative status in the north or be part of Bahr El Ghazal state in the South.
The role of UNMIS is to provide the logistical and technical support for the two referenda, if requested.
“UNMIS reiterates its commitment to fully support the implementation of the CPA,” Mr. Menkerios said, to ensure that the referenda “are carried out in a credible way and reflect the will of the people.” (unmis.unmissions.org)