Sudan

Lack of mutual trust main obstacle to north-south peace in Sudan - UN report

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A lack of mutual trust between the signatories remains the main challenge to implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan, says a new United Nations report released today.

"This lack of trust consequently permeates into all major pending benchmarks set under the Agreement," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council on Sudan, which the 15-member body will discuss next month.

He urges the leaders of both the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to make an effort to improve their relationship, saying the "onus of improving mutual trust and confidence lies with the leadership of both sides."

One of the things that Mr. Ban says will significantly contribute to confidence-building between the parties is successful implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, which is "critical to peace in the Sudan."

But disarmament and demobilization alone cannot lead to a durable peace, he adds, stressing the need to provide ex-combatants with the opportunities they need to successful reintegrate into society. In this regard, he urges donors to be generous with their pledges at a round-table conference to be held in November.

At the same time, he does note some positive achievements in recent months, particularly with regard to the agreement reached by the parties to resolve the conflict over the disputed town of Abyei.

This includes the successful redeployment by the parties of most of their forces out of the interim borders, agreement on the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the interim administration, appointment of the remaining members of the Abyei Executive and Area Councils, and the ongoing deployment of the Abyei Joint Integrated Unit and the Joint Integrated Police Unit.

Noting that the process of arbitration on a final settlement of the issue is under way in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Mr. Ban urges the parties to immediately redeploy their remaining forces out of the interim borders and set up the interim administration.

He also urges that agreement be reached quickly on the report of the Border Commission, so that the demarcation process can begin as soon as possible. "Demarcation of the border is a critical benchmark with implications for almost all other benchmarks under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," he stresses.

The report also notes that voluntary returns to Abyei remained "slow but steady." As of 1 October, between 12,000 and 16,000 of the estimated 50,000 people uprooted from their homes due to the fighting that preceded the Abyei agreement had returned to the area.

There have also been positive developments related to the electoral process, including the completion of the census enumeration and the passage of the electoral law. Also, negotiations to appoint members of the National Elections Commission are under way.

The UN has already received a request for electoral assistance from the Government of Southern Sudan and a needs assessment mission will be visiting the country in this regard.

The Secretary-General adds that in 2011, the people of Abyei and Southern Sudan will exercise their right of self-determination to vote for unity or separation. "Whether the verdict is unity or separation, the sides cannot ignore their interdependence and common interest," he says, encouraging the parties to initiate discussions on a long-term wealth-sharing agreement beyond 2011 for the sake of peace and the people of Sudan.

Mr. Ban also writes that efforts by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek an indictment against the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on genocide and war crimes charges could have the potential to "profoundly affect" the UN's work in the country.

"The Government of National Unity assured the United Nations that it would continue to cooperate with both [the UN Mission in the Sudan] UNMIS and the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). However, senior Government officials issued public warnings of possible serious consequences for UNMIS if the President is indeed indicted.

"I and my Special Representative received similar warnings directly. We have reiterated to the Government that the United Nations will respect the independence of the judicial process and that UNMIS will remain committed to implementing its mandate in support of the peace process in the Sudan," says the Secretary-General.

He urges the Sudanese Government to cooperate with the Court and put in place an effective judicial and political process at the national level.