Source: Reuters(Mon 30 Jul 2007, 13:53 GMT)

By Simon Apiku


The reluctance of Sudan's dominant northern party to implement key aspects of a north-south peace deal is pushing southerners toward backing independence in a 2011 vote, a southern leader said on Monday.

"Chances of unity are nil practically given the non-implementation and the lack of confidence," Pagan Amum, secretary-general of the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), told Reuters.

The SPLM signed a deal in January 2005 with the National Congress Party (NCP) ending Africa's longest civil war -- a bitter 20-year conflict that claimed 2 million lives and drove more than 4 million people from their homes.

The deal mandated power and wealth sharing, and granted south Sudan the right to decide in a referendum in 2011 if it wanted to remain united with the north.

But the SPLM accuses the NCP of stalling on the implementation of important elements in the agreement such as the protocol on the oil-rich Abyei region, border demarcation, security arrangements and disarming of militias.

"What we are seeing is unity being made very unattractive because that unity is being presented as unity to pursue narrow egoistic interests by the elite in the north," Amum said.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir says implementation of the 2005 agreement is going well, and denies any foot-dragging over the deal.


One of the agreement's key tasks was to demarcate borders of the Abyei region, establishing control of its lucrative oil fields.

The NCP has rejected the findings of the independent Abyei Border Commission, formed by the 2005 deal, saying it exceeded its mandate. The SPLM accepted the commission's report.

"Definitely the entire peace process is in danger by Abyei not being implemented, by SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) maintaining forces which is an act of war in the south, claiming that they want to protect the oil," Amum said.

The United Nations earlier this month said the SAF had missed a July 9 deadline to move its troops to the north under the peace deal and a senior U.N. official in the south said SAF was still paying illegal militias based in the south.

Under the agreement, only joint units should police the oil areas, but these north-south units are not yet functioning.

For this reason the SPLM says it has also not withdrawn its troops from the central Southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where joint units are supposed to take over.

"If they maintain militia groups against the south when we have signed peace, then we are in for war," said Amum.

A border committee formed in 2005 to agree on the frontier has yet to complete its work.

Demarcation of the north-south border is crucial for a census due to be held in November, elections expected to be convened in 2009 and the referendum in 2011.

"I see things unfolding in the direction of intense struggle to ensure the (north-south deal) being implemented," said Amum.

The SPLM on Monday marked the second anniversary of the death in a helicopter crash of charismatic leader, John Garang.

Amum said Garang's death had left a void, but Garang's successor, Salva Kiir, was strong enough to lead the movement.

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