Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed sources in Khartoum have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that an international-African plan will be presented to the leaders of the north and the south that includes arrangements for the situation that will follow the secession of the south. These arrangements stipulate that Khartoum will immediately recognize the independence of the Southern State before the other countries, and as soon as the secession result is announced, an economic partnership system similar to the European Union formula is established. This economic partnership system is to be considered a nucleus for a regional union to include neighboring countries.
The Sudanese Foreign Ministry has stressed that it will open the first embassy in the new state if the referendum is conducted with transparency, freedom, and impartiality.
The sources say to Asharq Al-Awsat that Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and African Union mediator, has prepared a draft political agreement between the National Congress Party [NCP] led by President Al-Bashir, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] led by Salva Kiir, which constitutes a strong basis for agreement on the arrangements that follow the self-determination referendum.
The plan focuses on creating “a suitable environment for dialog, and an ideal atmosphere for peace between north and south, and for protecting the nationals of both sides in Khartoum and Juba.”
The sources stress: “The plan stipulates that the north will be the first country to recognize officially the South State as soon as the southerners vote for secession.” This was referred to by Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Kurti two days ago, when he announced: “Sudan will open the first embassy in the south after the secession.” However, Kurti stipulated the condition: “The referendum ought to be conducted in a free, impartial and transparent way.”
Mbeki is keen to encourage the two sides to establish “a common market, or a union similar to the European Union.” Within this context, Mbeki has placed before the Sudanese groups a number of scenarios, the first of which is secession into two states bound by a federation, the second is to remain in one state or to secede into two states with flexible borders, and finally is to secede with well-defined borders whose crossing requires prior visas.
Within a related context, Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained a document that contains a collection of proposals – tantamount to a declaration of principles – presented by experts to the ruling partners in Sudan during negotiations and dialogs that continued all the past year in Ethiopia, Juba, and Khartoum in order to agree “the post-referendum arrangements in both cases of unity and secession.” These arrangements are considered one of the most difficult issues that will threaten peace if no agreement is reached over them before 10 July 2011, which is the end of the interim stage according to the Interim Constitution that governs Sudan. The draft recommendations and proposals include the issues of citizenship, nationality, resources, oil, debts, and international agreements and treaties.
The document proposes with regard to the issue of citizenship “extremely urgent issues,” and it includes an agreement to avoid discrimination, the situation of the absence of state, and reiterating the rights of minorities in the two cases of unity and secession.
The document includes general principles on the criteria of “citizenship, and rights of citizens and non-citizens, and proposals and plans for humanitarian communications with the citizens, including the displaced and the refugees,” situations which sometimes occur in cases of secession.
The document also discusses the situation and rights of the southern students in the northern universities and institutes, and of their northern opposite numbers in the south; the situation of the northerners in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA], and of the southerners in the Sudanese Armed Forces, and the pensions and salaries; proposals about the movement of the citizens across the borders in the two cases of unity and secession; an agreement on the rights of the nomad citizens moving across the borders; an agreement on the permanent rights to traditional movements; the situation of the southerners in public service [in the north], and the situation of the northerners in the public service in the south; and the ownership rights, the situation of properties, and the right to ownership in the case of non-citizens and legal residents.
The experts also put forward a collection of proposals on issues of medium importance. These are drafts of new and alternative laws to the current laws; citizenship, foreigners, and residents; the right of citizens in South Sudan to ownership in case of secession; and a law for obtaining citizenship in the north in the case of secession. The experts considered the issues of obtaining citizenship, residence and property laws as of minimum importance.
With regard to the issue of currency, the experts propose: “Reaching an agreement on the way to establish the currency of the union, or to deal with two currencies in case of secession. Reaching an agreement on the interim period, and emphasizing transparency and not encouraging illegal behavior in the case of separate currencies; and reaching an agreement on the way to speed up the introduction of the new currency, and the currency to be used until the issuing of the new one; reaching an agreement on the distribution of the existing hard currencies in order to support the new currency; and (in the case of union) resolving the existing difficulties between the two sides with regard to the hard currency reserves, the ownership and production of currency, and a map for the hard currency reserves, and agreeing to review all the agreements and treaties to which Sudan is a party.”
The experts also call for reaching an agreement to consolidate the foundations of economic cooperation (outside the oil sector), and the fraternal relations between the north and the south (non-aggression agreement, an agreement on customs duties, agreement on free trade, and the possibility of reaching other agreements for instance on social services, and on gains and benefits, such as education – free education for southerners in the northern higher education institutions- and the possibility of reaching an agreement on the structure of public transportation).”
Within this context, former US President Jimmy Carter said yesterday that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expressed his readiness to the north shouldering all the debts of the country, which are valued at 38 billion dollars. This would relieve the south, which is torn by war, from any debts if the south voted for secession.
In an interview with CNN news network, Carter said: “I have talked to President Al-Bashir. He said that the entire debt ought to be shouldered by North Sudan, and not the south.” Carter added: “Thus, South Sudan will start with a clean slate with regard to the debts. Naturally, the south ought to make some arrangements to obtain other sources of income.”
Carter met the Sudanese president in Khartoum last Saturday before going to Juba, capital of South Sudan, on the first day of a long week of voting in the referendum on the secession of the south. Carter, together with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, chairs a delegation of observers from the Carter Center.