JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - A senior member of South Sudan’s ruling party on Saturday said it would campaign for southerners to choose independence in a referendum, abandoning a legal fiction that the movement was neutral.
Anne Itto, from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), spoke to journalists from a podium decorated with posters bearing the referendum’s symbol for separation.
“Since unity has not been made attractive, we are promoting what our people choose ... We choose to campaign for what people want ... If you have had your ears open, more than 90 percent of the people are already waving,” she said, referring to the open-hand symbol for separation printed on referendum forms.
Asked what she meant by waving, Itto answered “separation”.
The referendum on whether the oil-producing south should secede or stay in Sudan was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south conflict — Africa’s longest civil war that killed an estimated 2 million people.
Under the terms of the deal, northern and southern leaders agreed to spend the next five years campaigning to make unity attractive to southerners. In recent years, SPLM officials have publicly stuck to that line, saying they would leave it to southerners to make the choice.
Itto said she was speaking for the party’s dominant southern sector. Yasir Arman, from the party’s northern sector, declined to comment.