From Six killed in South Sudan clashes before referendum by Jason Benham and Jeremy Clarke, Reuters; dated Saturday, January 8, 2011 8:41 PM:
JUBA, Sudan, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Six people were killed in clashes between rebel militias and south Sudan's army on Friday and Saturday, the military said, a day before a referendum in which the south is expected to vote for independence.
The attacks cast a shadow over celebrations in other parts of the south — attended by Hollywood star George Clooney and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter — of the countdown to Sunday's vote on whether the oil-producing region should secede.
The reports were a reminder of the deep rifts in the undeveloped south, which has been plagued by ethnic killings, rival militias and cattle rustling raids.
Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said his forces ambushed fighters loyal to militia leader Galwak Gai in oil-producing Unity state on Friday and Gai's men launched a counter-attack on Saturday.
"They were coming from the north to disrupt the referendum. It is a known game. The spoilers are always here. They definitely came from Khartoum," he said.
Southern leaders have regularly accused north Sudan of backing militias to try and disrupt the referendum in a bid to keep control of the region's oil. Northern leaders have dismissed the accusations.
Aguer said SPLA forces killed two of Gai's men and captured 26 on Friday, then killed four on Saturday.
Even if Khartoum is not trying to disrupt the plebiscite, this message may not have been received by all of the militias that Khartoum backs.
And, we are assuming this is not a false-flag operation.
Continuing with Six killed in South Sudan clashes before referendum:
WAITING FOR TOMORROW
Gai was among several southern militia leaders who rebelled after April elections, accusing the south's government of fraud.
The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of north-south conflict — Africa's longest civil war that killed an estimated 2 million people. The fighting left deep rifts between southern communities and analysts have warned old tensions could re-emerge to destabilise the region.
The referendum's organising commission said it had everything in place to start processing around 4 million registered voters for the week-long voting exercise.
"Today we have nothing to do. We are waiting for tomorrow ... A couple of months ago, no one believed this would be possible," Barnaba Mariel Benjamin, chair of the South Sudan Referendum Board (SSRB) said in the south's capital Juba.
Preparations for the vote have been hit by logistical problems and delays. Northern and southern leaders also remain at loggerheads over how they would divide out oil revenues after a split and other issues.
Juba was on Saturday festooned with pro-independence banners as youth groups and campaigners held rallies and spontaneous celebrations in the count down to the vote.
Southern president Salva Kiir repeated promises that there would be no return to war with the north. "We are left only with a few hours to make the most ... important decision of our lifetime. I urge you to make the decision in a peaceful manner," he said in a speech in Juba.
Clooney, a long time campaigner in Sudan, particularly over its separate Darfur conflict, flew back to the capital after a quick visit to the contested central region of Abyei.
Abyei at one time was responsible for more than a quarter of Sudan's oil production. It is still an oil-producing region, and is important because of a pipeline that flows through the area.
Abyei is the red spot on the map above.
Finishing Six killed in South Sudan clashes before referendum:
"There is such an electricity in the air (in Juba)," he told Reuters. "I've never been around a place that gets to vote for their independence. To see the beginning of a new country, to see a country and a people that has longed for this for generations, to see the excitement that is in their eyes and in their hearts is really something spectacular to be around. It is an honour."
From Kiir assures country there will be no returning to war, by David Ochami in Juba, dated January 8, 2010:
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and US Senator John Kerry have said there will be "no return to war" if South Sudan secedes from the Sudanese union in a separation referendum that starts today.
Kiir appealed to the international community to ensure the Khartoum authorities accept the referendum outcome. He said South Sudan will coexist peacefully with its new neighbour if it secedes.
"There is no return to war. The referendum will not be the end of a journey. It will be the beginning of a new one. There is no substitute for peaceful existence," said Kiir.
On Friday evening, Sudan's President Omar Hassan al Bashir said a unilateral annexation of oil rich Abyei by the South will be considered a declaration of war by the establishment in Khartoum. On Saturday, Kerry said Kiir had assured him he will not annex Abyei unilaterally. A concurrent referendum in Abyei will not be held due to disputes between Juba and Khartoum.
A big part of this struggle will boil down to oil.
(And, the poor guys have both President Carter and Senator Kerry involved...)
Also, from Bashir rules out dual citizenship for Southerners:
January 7, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir on Friday made it clear that there is no prospect for Southerners living in the North to have dual citizenship if the referendum vote comes in favor of creating a new state.
The oil-producing south is due to vote in a referendum starting on Sunday on whether to secede. Voters are widely expected to back secession.
"Of course, to be very frank self determination is deciding on the fate of Sudan... it is not self determination for the South... shall it be one state or two states. This right was given exclusively to the Southern citizen," Bashir told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV in an interview.
"If they [Southerners] decide to divide Sudan into two states and establishing their own country in South Sudan and at the same time want to retain their citizenship in North Sudan and enjoy all the rights... if this is their desire then let Sudan remain united" he added.
The Sudanese leader it is "illogical" for Southerners to call for creation of their own state seek citizenship rights in the North at the same time.
"They [Southerners] claim that they were marginalized, we were second class citizens. [So we say] in order for you not to be marginalized and second class citizen there is no reason for you to have the nationality of a country that is marginalizing you," Bashir said.
Sudan's President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
And President Bashir is right insofar as that issue is concerned.
Other issues addressed are that southerners comprise 20% of the civil service in Sudan, and will have to relinquish their jobs, but will have their rights protected, according to the government in Khartoum. It was also discussed that the two countries would have special relations, and that special accords would be drawn up to formalize this situation.
I wonder how long that will all last if the shooting really starts?