Silva Kiir, the vice president of Sudan and the potential first president of a would-be independent state of South Sudan, has said he is committed to maintaining and promoting strong ties with Arab countries.
“Relations between the south of Sudan and the Arab world would not be undermined” were the south to choose independence in an upcoming referendum, said Samir Hosni, head of the Sudan and Africa Department at the Arab League.
Speaking to Ahram Online following a meeting with Kiir in Juba, the potential capital of the would-be independent state, Hosni said he discussed with Kiir plans for an Arab conference that would be held next year in Bahrain on the development of South Sudan. A first conference was held in Juba in February this year.
The meeting between Hosni and Kiir comes days ahead of a planned visit by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to Juba and Khartoum.
It is not clear whether if the would-be state of South Sudan would solicit membership of the Arab League were independence declared.
Meanwhile, the Arab League is sending an 80-member team of observers to monitor the referendum. In the north and south of Sudan, Hosni inspected the registration process of eligible voters. He told Ahram Online that there is a keen flow of registration taking place, especially in the south of Sudan.
“The commission in charge of organising the referendum is working very hard to execute all necessary preparations, but we have to take into consideration that they are trying to do in 10 months a volume of work that should have required much more time,” Hosni said.
At around six weeks ahead of the referendum, not more than 50 per cent of those eligible to vote have been registered, according to Ahram Online sources in Sudan.
Meanwhile, Hosni is consulting with African Union counterparts on resolving pending issues that should be settled ahead of the referendum. He said that on Saturday, 27 November, a high-level meeting would examine the progress made on the key issues, especially the fate of the oil-rich Abyie region that is contested by both the north and south.
An informed source told Ahram Online that there is “a possibility that both the north and south agree to keep the fate of Abyie undecided until a later date — past the referendum”.
According to the peace deal that was signed between the leaders of the north and south of Sudan in 2005 to end two decades of civil war, there should be two referendums on 9 January: one on the fate of South Sudan and another on the affiliation of Abyie, where tribes of both the north and south live.
A UN source told Ahram Online that it is still possible for the Abyei referendum to take place on 9 January, but that “the details have still to be worked out”.