Sudanese president announces referendum in Darfur next year

Khartoum, Oct 19 (IANS) Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday announced that a referendum in Darfur would be held in April 2016 to end the controversy over the administrative status of the region which has been witnessing a civil war since 2003.

“Next April 2016 will witness conduct of a referendum for Darfur region to lay down the basis of a future characterised by rational political exercise for this beloved region,” al-Bashir told the opening sitting of the Sudanese National Assembly in its second session.

He vowed to achieve sustainable peace in Darfur and all other parts of Sudan and ensure the return of the displaced people and refugees to their villages.

However, major Darfur rebel movements rejects the holding of the referendum in Darfur before Sudan fulfills other demands including reaching a political agreement with the region’s armed groups and pays individual compensations for the people affected by the conflict there.

The referendum will be held for either to merge the Darfur states in one region or keep the region’s current administrative status which comprises five states.

The Sudanese government has stressed that the referendum is a constitutional right that must be implemented according to Abuja peace deal which Khartoum signed with the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)/ Minni Minnawi faction in 2006.

According to the deal, if the people vote for merging the states in one region, the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) shall form a constitutional committee to determine the powers of Darfur’s regional government.

However, if the Darfur people vote against the option of one region, the agreement stipulates that the current administrative status of five states shall remain and the TDRA shall be dissolved.

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