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In a report issued today, The Carter Center recognized the announcement of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to extend the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan popular consultations, and urged the National Assembly to formalize this extension, creating a specific timetable to consider issues raised in public hearings and opening discussions on a national level as deemed necessary. These moves would signal a positive step to respect the people's rights to consultation on the key issues of security, power and resource sharing, and land use, conferred on them by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Although the legal force of the CPA has ended, stakeholders should work to ensure that peace processes mandated in the CPA continue if lasting stability is to be returned to these two regions.
The Carter Center also urges the Blue Nile Parliamentary Commission for Popular Consultations to gather expert opinions through additional public or parliamentary hearings to add substance to the analysis of the main themes that emerged from the citizen hearings. Furthermore, political parties should commit to working together to avoid the previously witnessed politicization of the process and identify the main areas of consensus of the people they represent.
The popular consultations were designed to give the citizens of the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan an opportunity to discuss and reflect on whether the constitutional, political, administrative, and economic arrangements, as prescribed under the CPA, had been satisfactory in bringing about a sufficient peace dividend or whether the arrangements should be renegotiated with the Khartoum government. Over 70,000 citizens in Blue Nile have expressed their opinion through 112 public hearings, and their contributions have been summarized and entered into a specially-designed database. Although similar steps are mandated in Southern Kordofan, the process has been postponed due to renewed fighting and the lack of a State Legislative Assembly. The Blue Nile Parliamentary Commission for Popular Consultations officially started to analyze the data collected and draft its report on June 30. The Carter Center commends the commission on this achievement.
However, as documented in the Carter Center's March 21 public statement, the citizen hearings in Blue Nile were highly politicized and many participants were coached to focus on choosing "federalism" or "autonomy." This limited the depth of discussion on the different themes. Disagreement persists between the two main political parties over whether to hold more substantive public hearings and debates on the issues raised during the hearings. The Carter Center encourages the parliamentary commission and political representatives to engage a wide variety of experts in a substantive discussion of the most commonly cited themes, through additional public or parliamentary hearings. Experts should be provided with sufficient time to prepare and deliver arguments to ensure that debates are meaningful.
The Carter Center also encourages the commission in its efforts to build the report on broader contributions from the citizen hearings and from any further hearings. The commission should aim to identify the many main issues of consensus between the state constituents and to substantiate the citizen claims related to CPA implementation, rather than focusing on the number of supporters for a particular mode of governance.
The Center calls for the National Assembly to approve the president's proposed extension for the popular consultations as soon as possible, so that the process, delayed pending election of State Legislative Assemblies in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, can continue in this post-CPA period. The extension should include a new timeframe for the Blue Nile process with clearly stated deadlines, sufficient to allow for meaningful substantive hearings and an effective and timely implementation of the spirit of the CPA's mandate. The Carter Center commends the recent calls for an extension to the popular consultations, both by the National Congress Party and Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement North during their recent talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and also lauds President Bashir for doing the same in his speech on July 12.
Although similar steps to the Blue Nile process are mandated in Southern Kordofan, the process has been delayed indefinitely due to the resumed fighting. The Carter Center calls for both sides to commit to a cease-fire to allow citizens of the state to resume their lives and for remaining differences to be resolved by political dialogue and mediation. According to estimates, the fighting initially displaced 73,000 people.
While some have returned, the security situation remains unpredictable with fighting still ongoing. The Carter Center calls for popular consultations to proceed in Southern Kordofan when conditions allow, so that citizen's opinions are taken into account in negotiations between the state and the national governments regarding the dividends of the CPA. The Southern Kordofan State Legislative Assembly could benefit from the achievements and lessons of the Blue Nile Popular Consultation Commission to allow for substantive discussion of the key themes without external pressure or polarization of the process.
Background on the Carter Center Mission
The Carter Center's Democracy Program has been present in Sudan since February 2008. This mission has observed the April 2010 general and presidential elections, the Southern Sudan referendum in January 2011, and the Southern Kordofan Legislative and Gubernatorial elections in May 2011. The Center was invited by the Blue Nile Popular Consultation Commission to observe the process in the state and has deployed long-term observers in Blue Nile since October 2010 and maintained a team of analysts in Khartoum. This statement documents the data entry and report writing processes, as well as the rescheduled hearings in Kadalu and Bau constituencies. The Center released a report on March 21 covering the January to February citizen hearings.
Read the Center's full report at www.cartercenter.org.
The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by 35 election observation groups. The Center assesses the process against the CPA, the Popular Consultation Act of 2010 and other international legal instruments to which Sudan has acceded.
The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. The Carter Center began working in Sudan in 1986 on the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural project and for more than 20 years its health and peace programs have focused on improving health and preventing and resolving conflicts in Sudan. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.
 OCHA Southern Kordofan situation report no.11