Sudanese president Bashir arrives in southern city
Juba (Alshahid) — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir landed at the airport in the southern city of Juba on Tuesday, five days before voters in the region decide whether to break away from the rest of the east African nation.
Al-Bashir is there to inspect the referendum process and meet with other senior officials in South Sudan, Sudanese state media reported.
Juba would be the capital of an independent south.
Sunday’s referendum in South Sudan could establish the world’s newest country or potentially trigger a renewed civil war in the region. The vote was part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of violence between Sudan’s north and oil-rich south that left 2 million people dead, many from disease and starvation.
The hope is that the balloting will turn a framework peace agreement into a permanent solution. But the stakes are high as the war-torn country tries to move past its bloody history.
In a September speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the South Sudan situation “a ticking time bomb of enormous consequence.”
Clinton urged international leaders to help ensure a successful referendum process by intensifying efforts to bring the north and south together.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that Washington is “optimistic” about the referendum.
“Our view (is), and the observers in Sudan have viewed the registration process as very credible,” Crowley told reporters Monday.
“Sudan and Southern Sudan have come a long way over the past few months,” he added.
Sudan is Africa’s largest country, a quarter the size of the United States.
In a New Year’s Day speech marking the 55th anniversary of independence, al-Bashir said he will accept the results of the referendum and called on the government in the south to provide a safe environment for the balloting.
“Our acceptance of the final results will not be withdrawn or hesitated about,” he said, “because the peace is our ultimate goal in our relationships with our southern brothers, even if they choose a path other than unity.”(CNN)