Uneasy climate surrounds south Sudan secession vote

Wed Jan 5, 2011 11:39am GMT

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - After south Sudan votes as expected to secede from the north on January 9, leaders of both countries must still resolve a daunting range of practical issues if they are to prevent a return to violence.

The referendum, guaranteed by a 2005 peace deal between north and south which ended Africa's longest civil war, is forecast to result in secession, but exactly how the two

countries will begin to disentangle their economies, resources and people is far from clear.

Even the name of south Sudan has not been decided. Suggestions include New Sudan, Equatoria, Juwama or the Nile Republic.

"The absence of an agreement so far on post-referendum arrangements increases the possibility that the result will be challenged, generating renewed conflict between the parties," said election expert Aly Verjee in a report on the referendum for regional think tank the Rift Valley Institute.

While brinkmanship and quick fixes have characterised the north-south partnership since the peace accord, the creation of two new states raises problems that are far too sensitive to be leveraged off against each other with last-minute wrangling.

"At this final stage, brinkmanship, delay and broken agreements -- old traditions of Sudanese politics -- threaten to turn the political and technical challenges of the (referendum) into a national disaster," Verjee said.

Citizenship rights, agreeing a border and how to patrol it, sharing assets and liabilities, dividing oil and Nile water resources, agreeing the status of the disputed Abyei region and coordinating economic policies are all potential flashpoints which have yet to be agreed just days ahead of voting.   Continued...

<p>South Sudan President Salva Kiir with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, August 11, 2005. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin</p>
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