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Official: South Sudan lawmakers may vote to secede

NAIROBI, Kenya — Southern Sudan's parliament may vote to secede from the Khartoum-based north if an independence reference scheduled for January is delayed, a former top Southern Sudan official said Thursday.

The oil-rich region can take such action under the terms of a peace deal signed in 2005 to end the north-south civil war, said John Duku, Southern Sudan's former mission chief to Kenya. The autonomous region does not have an embassy in Kenya but Duku was the equivalent of ambassador until March. He is currently working on Southern Sudan's referendum campaign but is not a member of the government.

"The date of Jan. 9, 2011 is written not with words," said Duku, referring to the referendum date. "It is written with the blood of 2.5 million Southern Sudanese who perished during the war."

He said that if the referendum is not held as scheduled on Jan. 9, Southern Sudan's parliament will vote to secede the next day. Such a move will be opposed by officials in the north, which could lead to a confrontation, said Duku.

In Southern Sudan's capital, Juba, Minister of Presidential Affairs Cirino Hiteng Ofuho said Duku's views do not represent those of the government, though he said Duku had the right to speak as an individual.


"According to the referendum law, officials are not supposed to make any statements like this," Ofuho said.

Duku said Sudan remaining as one country is no longer possible because the north has violated key parts of the 2005 peace deal such as the requirement that Islamic law should not apply in the country's capital, Khartoum.

"The unity between north and Southern Sudan has died. There is no more unity. The international community has to wake up to the reality there's no unity in Sudan," Duku told journalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

He also indirectly criticized Kenya, which hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a ceremony for the country's new constitution in Nairobi last week. Sudan's president faces arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court for alleged acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Kenya argued that acting on the ICC warrants and arresting al-Bashir would threaten Sudan's stability and would appear to take sides in the north-south referendum issue.


Associated Press writer Maggie Fick in Juba, Sudan contributed to this report.

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