Sudan: Countdown to the Southern referendum

NAIROBI, 23 November 2010 (IRIN) –

The people of Southern Sudan regard January’s referendum as their first genuine opportunity to exert their right to self-determination, as enshrined in the 1945 UN Charter and underlined in the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between North and South.

Below are some key milestones on the road to this referendum:

Pre-1946: The British and Egyptian governments administer South and North Sudan as separate and distinct regions.

1946: The South and North are merged into one administrative region by the British government. The Southerners are not consulted about the decision and have concerns about being subsumed by the larger and more powerful North.

1954: Southern Sudanese politicians formally call for a greater role in their own governance, failing which they reserve the right to self-determination.

August 1955: Months before independence, there is a mutiny in the Southern town of Torit. By the early 1960s this develops into a full-scale rebellion and what became known as Sudan’s first civil war, Anyanya I.

1 January 1956: Sudan gains its independence from Egypt and Britain.

1962: Civil war intensifies in the mainly Christian region of the South.

27 February 1972: An agreement is signed in Addis Ababa to end the war and grant self-governance to the South.

1978: Oil is discovered in Bentiu, Southern Sudan. This becomes a significant factor in relations between North and South.

1983: Sharia Islamic law is introduced by President Jaafar Nimeiri. Tensions in the South lead to the creation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Civil war resumes in the South between government forces and the SPLA, led by John Garang, who declares he is fighting for all of the country’s marginalised peoples.

30 June 1989: Lt. General Omar al-Bashir leads a bloodless military coup and the Revolution of National Salvation takes power. Bashir subsequently cracks down on the rebellion in the South.

1993: Al-Bashir appoints himself president of Sudan and the Revolution Command Council is dissolved.

1999: Sudan starts exporting oil.

December 2000: Al-Bashir is re-elected president. All the main opposition parties boycott the elections.

20 July 2002: The Machakos Protocol is signed by the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A, outlining the general terms of a peace settlement.

27 July 2002: Al-Bashir and Garang meet for the first time since the war started.

October 2002: A landmark ceasefire agreement is reached between the government and the SPLA, but hostilities continue.

9 January 2005: Signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which includes a permanent ceasefire and stipulations on wealth- and power-sharing as well as a provision for the South to hold a self-determination referendum and for the region of Abyei to vote on whether to join the South or retain a special status in the North.

9 July 2005: A new constitution is introduced. Al-Bashir is sworn in as president with Garang as vice-president.

30 July 2005: Garang is killed in a plane crash. Salva Kiir replaces him. Violence erupts in the capital between Southerners and Northerners.

September 2005: Khartoum forms a power-sharing government.

October 2005: The South forms an autonomous government as per the peace agreement. Former rebels dominate the new administration.

April 2008: A national census is conducted in preparation for the upcoming national elections.

October 2009: The Northern and Southern governments agree that turnout for the upcoming referendum will need to be 60 percent for the vote to be accepted. If less, a second referendum will be held within 60 days.

December 2009: Leaders in the North and South say they have agreed the terms of the self-determination referendum in Southern Sudan.

January 2010: Al-Bashir says he will accept the outcome of the referendum even if the South votes for secession.

April 2010: Al-Bashir is elected for a new term as president and Kiir becomes the first elected president of the South.

24 September 2010: World leaders meet at the UN to discuss the possibility of a break-up of Sudan. The UN Security Council asks all sides to ensure a peaceful referendum.

October 2010: A timetable is set for the referendum, due to take place on 9 January 2011.

14 November 2010: The voter registration process begins.

1 December 2010: Voter registration to end.

6 December 2010: The preliminary voter register to be published.

4 January 2010: The final register to be published.

9 January 2011: The Southern Sudan referendum to take place.

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