US steps up bid to ensure peaceful Sudan transition

The United States said Tuesday it was stepping up efforts for a peaceful transition in Sudan ahead of a referendum that will likely see the south secede from the war-ravaged African nation.

A State Department statement said Washington is working to ensure “a peaceful post-2011 Sudan, or an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other” after a January 9 referendum on whether the south should stay united with the north.

“The Obama administration is pressing the parties to facilitate the peaceful and on-time conduct of the referenda, to respect their results, to resolve key remaining post-referenda issues, and for the government of Sudan to end the conflict in Darfur,” it added.

The United States seeks “a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur; and (to ensure) that Sudan does not again become a safe haven for international terrorists,” the statement said.

US special envoy Scott Gration, on his 20th trip to the region over the weekend, told Sudanese officials that the country could obtain “potential incentives” if it meets its obligations under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended a 22-year civil war between the north and south.

“He also made clear that there are a range of consequences that will be deployed if the situation in Sudan deteriorates or fails to make progress, including additional sanctions,” the State Department added.

Semi-autonomous south Sudan is struggling to recover from Africa’s longest civil conflict, which left an estimated two million people dead and was fueled by ethnicity, ideology, religion and resources such as oil.

The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the western Darfur region since minority rebels revolted against the central government in 2003, and 2.7 million people have fled their homes from the fighting.

Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.