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Work on Sudan split continues

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Melissa Benson, Medill News Service
Washington (UPI) Apr 19, 2011
Their message was clear: the discussion over the future of Sudan isn't over but African leaders charged with overseeing the peaceful division of Sudan said Tuesday they are hopeful that most of the issues plaguing the country as it prepares to separate will be resolved soon.

"I think in the end the parties will make compromises and that it will be up to them to compromise," said Pierre Buyoya, former president of Burundi on the potential for peace in Sudan.

Buyoya, former South African President Thabo Mbeki ad former Nigerian President Adulsalami Abubakar -- all members of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, a group in charge of overseeing the peaceful division of Sudan -- addressed a crowded auditorium at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The people of Sudan voted in favor of the division in a January referendum. The country of Southern Sudan is to formally separate from the north July 9.

The leaders said they are working with the Sudanese on issues including designing borders, dividing debt and figuring out how to build the economies of both countries.

"Citizenship is under discussion still," Mbeki said. "One thing agreed on by both parties is that they have to include the possibility [for people] to stay where they are now and keep the property and jobs they have."

The group was commissioned to work on violence in Darfur in March 2009. Its mandate was extended to all of Sudan in October 2009.

Experts agree that in order for Sudan to peacefully divide many longstanding issues still need to be resolved.

"One of most prevalent issues is the Abyei region. It is one of Sudan's oil-producing regions, prone to violence and ethnic tensions," said Morgan Roach, a foreign policy research associate at the Heritage Foundation.

"Abyei is one of the sticking points that is still being dealt with," said Jimmy Mulla, president of the Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom advocacy group.

The African leaders said they hope to have a proposal for Abyei by the end of May.

Roach said oil revenue-sharing, border demarcation and violence in the Darfur region are all points of contention between the two Sudanese governments with no clear resolution in the near future.

"Personally I don't see all these issues being resolved by July, the negotiations need to continue," Roach said. "This is going to be a long process. It is going to take a lot of help. The United States has said they are in this for the long haul."

Mulla noted that there is still a lot of acrimony over individual rights and control of government.

"Right now, it's not so clear how this is going to work out with the militias and the incitement of the government," he said.

Sudan remains on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, defined as "countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism" according to the State Department's Web site. It was given the designation Aug. 12, 1993.

"The United States has its own interests. And those revolve around making sure Sudan does not become a haven for terrorism," said Roach. "We also want to end conflict and human rights abuses and make sure comprehensive peace agreement is fulfilled."

The African leaders focused more on the economics of the two new countries and less on ongoing terrorism concerns.

"The international community needs to not just look at the political issues but the economic ones as well," Buyoya said.

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Military helicopter crashes in Darfur, five dead: army
Khartoum (AFP) April 18, 2011
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