Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

South Sudan must be allowed to decide its future democratically

14th July 2010

The autonomous region of South Sudan must be allowed to hold a referendum on independence and the international community should move quickly to recognise an independent South Sudan if voters in he south choose to secede from Khartoum, ECR Group spokesman on foreign affairs Dr Charles Tannock MEP said today.

Dr Tannock made his comments after co-hosting a lunch in honour of Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and newly-appointed Minister for Peace in the autonomous Government of South Sudan.

Mr Amum is also responsible for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the SPLM and the north, which mandates the holding of a referendum on independence in the south. The referendum is scheduled for January 2011.

Dr Tannock, a British MEP representing London, said the UK, as the former colonial power in Sudan and a guarantor of the CPA, had a moral duty to press for the full implementation of the agreement and the holding of the referendum in a way that is entirely free, fair and democratic.

He added that the European Union shared this moral obligation, particularly since the recent indictment on charges of genocide of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the poorly run presidential election that returned him to power last April.

Dr Tannock and other MEPs present at the lunch were briefed by the minister on the latest developments in negotiations with the Khartoum government. Mr Amum said the people of South Sudan needed the EU's support more than ever in the critical period preceding the referendum.

Mr Amum also indicated his personal support for an independent Somaliland one of Dr Tannock's main political interests and hinted that an independent South Sudan could consider becoming the first African country to recognise Somaliland as a sovereign state.

Dr Tannock said:

"The people of South Sudan have suffered decades of war, violence and marginalisation at the hands of the government in Khartoum.

"They now have a chance to decide their own destiny, and in particular whether they wish to live in their own independent country.

"We should support their right to decide for themselves, free of interference and pressure from the north and outside involvement by major powers like China that are close allies of Khartoum.

"If South Sudan becomes independent the international community and the EU should recognise that independence as soon as possible.

"A peaceful, stable and secure South Sudan is in the interests of the region and Africa in general.

"Britain and the EU both have a moral duty to ensure the full implementation of the CPA, especially the referendum, which will be a massive logistical and organisational challenge.

"I wish Minister Amum every success as he seeks to prepare South Sudan for this crucial vote."