Southern Sudan’s vote to split from the Arab-dominated north is a “new dawn” for the giant African nation, a top United Nations envoy told the Security Council on Wednesday while warning of major tasks ahead in the creation of a new country.
Haile Menkerios, head of the UN mission in Sudan who has been widely praised for his role in ensuring last month’s self-determination vote went ahead peacefully, said the result would have an affect on all of Africa.
The announcement of the result on Monday “will have to be remembered and celebrated in Sudan’s and Africa’s history as a day when the longest-running civil war in the continent’s history came to a definitive end”, Menkerios told a Security Council debate.
“This is a new historic moment for Sudan, a new dawn that if built up on can lead to a sustainable peace and progress in Sudan and can contribute to the same in the immediate region and throughout the continent.”
The overwhelming vote for independence was part of a 2005 peace accord to end two decades of civil war between the north and south in which two million people died.
Southern Sudan is now expected to declare formal independence in July and the UN envoy said the two sides are working towards a new deal on their border, citizenship problems and “a broad framework for non-aggression and military cooperation”.
Menkerios said the north’s President Omar al-Bashir and the south’s leader, Salva Kiir, should be praised as “Sudan has given an example of how the spirit of peace can overcome the spirit of war”.
But more must be done to set up the new state in the south and reinforce the south’s institutions. He also highlighted heightened tensions in the Abyei region where the vote was not held and deadly clashes took place in recent weeks.
“In a sense, their work has only just begun,” Menkerios said. “Both north and south must now strive to consolidate peace, to deliver on their promises to their people, promises to ensure effective and accountable democratic governance, to drive economic development and provide social services.”
Representatives of the north and south reinforced commitments to move toward a peaceful separation.
In a statement read at the meeting, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, reaffirmed his country’s acceptance of the result and said the Khartoum government “looks forward to seeing a sisterly country that is stable and safe in the south”.
“Stability for the north is stability for the south as well,” he added. “Any threat to the north is a threat to the south.”
Deng Alor Kuol, Southern Sudan’s minister of regional development, called for international support for the creation of the new nation on July 9.
“Building a sustainable and lasting peace for all of the people of Sudan remains our top priority,” he said.
“We have no interest in returning to the hostilities and divisions of the past. It is our most sincere wish to achieve peaceful co-existence between North and South.”
US ambassador Susan Rice told the council that “as long as Abyei’s status remains unresolved, it could indeed trigger further instability across Sudan”.
Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said there are “a huge number of challenges” to be dealt with by July, including the risk of new unrest in southern Sudan and in border areas.
“Clearly, to make peace sustainable, to make stability sustainable, a great deal of peace-building work, of nation-building work, will need to be done over the next months and years,” he told reporters. — AFP