UN moves to avert war over Sudan partition

With top officials worrying out loud that Sudan is a "ticking time bomb" that could return to civil war, President Barack Obama and other leaders gathered on the fringes of the UN General Assembly last night to insist that the timetable for a referendum on possible secession for South Sudan is respected.

Declaring that the people of Sudan "need peace", Mr Obama said in an emotional address that "the fate of millions of people hangs in the balance. What happens in Sudan in the days ahead may decide whether people who have endured too much war, move towards peace or slip backwards to bloodshed."

He added: "What happens in Sudan matters to all of sub-Saharan Africa and it matters to the world."

Already semi-autonomous, South Sudan is meant to get the chance to vote on final secession from the rest of the largest country in Africa in a vote on 9 January next year. The holding of the referendum was a key provision of the 2005 peace treaty that ended two decades of civil war in Sudan.

Last night's unusual meeting, attended also by the leaders of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia as well as foreign ministers from an array of world powers, was convened amid growing concern that preparations for the referendum are lagging gravely behind.

Diplomats said that the purpose of the summit was plain: to impress upon Khartoum, which stands to lose access to about 80 per cent of the country's oil reserves in a divorce, that it must honour the promise to hold the referendum. Experts fear that otherwise a fresh war might be inevitable.

It was Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, who termed Sudan a "time bomb". Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, has called it one of his "top priorities".

Not present at the meeting was Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the UN International Court on war crimes charges stemming from the violence in Darfur. He was represented instead by two vice-presidents: Ali Osman Taha, who speaks for the Khartoum government, and Salva Kiir who is the leader of South Sudan. Few doubt that a fair vote would result in the South, with its capital in Juba, opting to break away. If a "yes" vote does occur, the process of negotiating that break-up is likely to be lengthy and extremely difficult, not least because of the need to divide the oil reserves.

In a speech in New York this week, Mr Obama openly prodded Khartoum to do what it promises. "We will reach out to countries making the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, and from war to peace," the President said. "As others show the courage to put war behind them ... the United States will stand with those who seek to build and sustain peace."

Earlier this year, Dennis Blair, the US director of National Intelligence told Congress that South Sudan was the most likely place for "a new mass killing or genocide" within the next five years. The last civil war is estimated to have cost as many as two million lives.

Mr Kiir was in Washington last week lobbying the US to apply maximum pressure on Khartoum, warning that he considered the January date for the poll to be "sacrosanct" and that any slippage would cause violence on a "massive scale" in his country.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"