August 25, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The United States announced today the appointment of a former diplomat to lead the Sudan negotiation support unit that is tasked with helping the North and South to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) provisions on referendum.
The U.S. State department said in a statement that Ambassador Princeton Lyman “will augment and complement the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and U.S. Consulate General in Juba as our diplomatic mission to Sudan”.
In less than five months time, people from Sudan’s oil-producing south are due to vote in a referendum on whether they should secede and form Africa’s newest nation — a plebiscite promised under a 2005 accord that ended decades of north-south civil war.
It is widely expected that the Southerners will opt for secession after decades of bitter war that claimed millions of lives and feelings of marginalization by the Arab-Muslim dominated North.
However, the preparations for referendum are well behind schedule leading many observers to believe that the key vote will not materialize by January 9, 2011. Furthermore, the post-referendum arrangements are yet to be agreed on between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The most contentious issue is the North-South border demarcation which the NCP says unless completed no referendum can be held. The SPLM warns that it will not accept any delay to the referendum under any circumstances.
“Ambassador Lyman will provide a senior-level presence in Sudan dedicated specifically to working with the CPA parties to reach consensus on outstanding CPA implementation issues, such as citizenship, border demarcation and resource sharing,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
The State Department said that Lyman will join a “robust” team that will support Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, Chargé d’Affaires Robert Whitehead in Khartoum and Consul General Barrie Walkley in Juba.
“Ambassador Lyman departed for Sudan yesterday evening, where he will join Special Envoy Gration in Sudan for meetings this week with the Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP), the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan Haile Menkerios, Chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel Thabo Mbeki and representatives of the Sudan Troika (United Kingdom and Norway),”.
The appointment was welcomed by Darfur activist groups in Washington
“This is a welcome sign for us from the administration that it needs to bring in folks with that kind of résumé,” the Enough project’s David Sullivan told Politico news portal.
“It’s a good step. We now seem to be acknowledging the successful model that helped result in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 that was negotiated by a team of senior diplomats on the ground in support of an Africa-led process.”
Sudan activists in Washington have been unhappy with Gration describing his approach as soft in dealing with the dominant NCP and lacking sufficient pressure to bring any change on the ground.