- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
Sudan prepares for likely secession
Concerns raised on fair vote
Question of the Day
The U.S. special envoy to Sudan spoke Tuesday about the challenges facing the war-torn country as it prepares for a referendum that likely will result in the secession of South Sudan from the Arab-dominated north.
"We have less than six months until the referendum," Scott Gration said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We have less than a year until we could, likely, have a new country in Africa — a new country as part of the United Nations."
"What we do in the next three to six months, I believe, will determine the course of this region for the next three to six years, and so it's very important that we get this right," he said.
In accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 between the south's Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Khartoum-based government of Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, the residents of the south are scheduled to vote on Jan. 9 on political separation.
But in the wake of April's presidential elections — marred by widespread fraud, voter intimidation and boycotts — many fear that the next vote will be anything but free and fair. Even in the event of a smooth referendum, many issues between north and south may remain unresolved.
"The border demarcation remains a problem," Mr. Gration said. "We got an agreement to use the 1956 border that was there on Jan. 1, when Sudan got its independence. And about 80 percent of this is a border that can be demarcated relatively easily. But there are still some issues that are tough, especially as you come into the oil-bearing regions."
Deng Deng Nhial, deputy head of the mission of the government of South Sudan, said it is "really critical that [the parties] do have agreement — at least a legal framework — regarding the post-2011 arrangements."
Mr. Nhial praised Mr. Gration's efforts in the region, but the special envoy — who will return to Khartoum this week — has received mixed reviews at home in his 16 months on the job.
Some accuse him of being unduly deferential to a regime that has slaughtered millions of its own citizens — both African Muslims in Darfur and African Christians and animists in the south during the civil war that raged from 1983 until the signing of the CPA in January 2005.
"I think it's been a fairly rocky road for the special envoy," said John Norris, executive director of the Enough Project, a group that seeks to mobilize public support for genocide prevention.
"He came into this position and had a fairly steep learning curve. He had never had a senior diplomatic position before, and I think at times that has shown. And obviously Sudan presents an enormously complex set of challenges — the ongoing conflict in Darfur, a potentially messy divorce between north and south."
Though polls and focus groups have shown overwhelming support among southern Sudanese for political separation, Mr. Gration said, preparations for secession are not intended to preclude the unlikely possibility that the south could choose unity with Khartoum.
"Planning for something doesn't mean it's gonna happen," he said. "I'll tell you, I plan for my funeral. It doesn't mean I'm gonna die earlier. It just means I'm gonna have a good funeral when I die."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
TWT Video Picks
By Orrin G. Hatch
Procedural changes impede the chamber's traditional deliberative function
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- House GOP resurrects border bill, predicts successful Friday vote
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Islamic militants seize Benghazi as U.S. evacuates Libya
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors