Thursday, April 8, 2010

Salva Kiir accuses Gen. Bashir

YIROL, SUDAN - South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said Khartoum was delaying demarcating the north-south border to try to retain control over oil reserves with Sudan’s elections just days away.

On Tuesday, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said it would boycott Sunday’s elections, accusing Khartoum of widespread fraud. "Why it is not demarcated is because there is oil and the north wants to take the oil, they want also to take the agricultural land we have so it becomes their land," Kiir told voters at a rally in the Lakes State.

Sudan’s potential 500,000 barrels per day of oil from wells mostly in the south inflamed a 22-year-long civil war between the SPLM and the northern National Congress Party which ended with a 2005 peace deal. Under the accord, south Sudan receives about 50% of government oil revenues from wells in the south but the opaque distribution of cash has been a source of much contention.

Oil revenues account for 98% of the budget of the semi-autonomous south. Many of the oil fields lie on the north-south border.

Hundreds of supporters greeted Kiir on the campaign trail for the South Sudanese presidency, waving banners and kicking up dust in celebratory dances in the small town of Yirol, which was devastated by the war. Several white bulls were slaughtered in his honour.

The SPLM has said it would boycott all elections in the north, except the central states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where it said it was sure to win, despite the widespread fraud they accuse the NCP of committing. Kiir also accused Sudan’s President Omar el-Bashir of refusing to form commissions to oversee the southern referendum and another vote for the citizens of the oil-rich Abyei area to choose whether to join the north or south. "They don’t want the south to stand alone," he said, speaking in his native Dinka. "The intention is to take over the land so they will control everything."

Meanwhile, the European Union said yesterday it was considering withdrawing its election observers from the Darfur region over fears for their safety and restrictions on their work.

Opposition parties have said the polls in Darfur will be a farce while a seven-year conflict continues in the region. "We are considering withdrawing the observers (from Darfur)," said Veronique De Keyser, who heads the EU’s election mission in Sudan. "The safety of some of the observers in some remote parts of the country is a big concern for me. I am also concerned about our ability to observe."

She said the violence in some parts of Darfur is terrible. "The humanitarians cannot access this area. And if aid cannot access, we cannot access," she told reporters as she flew into el-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. "We can only have a very partial view, so how can we observe properly in Darfur? The credibility of the mission is at stake."

De Keyser said she was particularly worried after Bashir threatened to expel international observers who pushed for a delay in the ballot. Bashir has threatened to cut off their fingers and tongues. "You don’t usually treat international observers you have invited like that. It doesn't reflect the traditional hospitality of the Arab world," she said.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, hopes to legitimise his rule with a victory in this week’s polls.


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