Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang said in an interview with al-Hayat newspaper published on Tuesday that a referendum could not be held across the country.
|Garanga (R) with other opposition|
leaders: no polls in war zones
“How can a referendum be held in war zones?” he asked.
“Eighty percent of the inhabitants of the south are on our side, so how will the government reach them?”
His remarks followed last week’s proposal by the government that a referendum be held across the nation on a peace agreement with the SPLA.
Under the proposal, the referendum would be followed months later by general elections.
Kenyan mediators, who have been sponsoring peace negotiations for a year, were hoping that a settlement could be reached as early as August.
Civil war in Sudan erupted 20 years ago between the Sudanese government and the SPLA that has been fighting to gain more autonomy for the south.
“What is happening in (eastern) Blue Nile state and in the (south-central) Nuba mountains… is total resistance against Khartoum”, Garang said, referring to the capital-based government.
Last December, people of the Blue Nile and Nuba mountains mandated the SPLA to negotiate their future.
Garang also said that he sympathised with the rebel movement in the western Darfur region.
“The (SPLA) movement feels solidarity with all those marginalised in Sudan and what is happening in Darfur is a rebellion… against injustice”, he said.
He urged the government in Khartoum to negotiate with them but denied any links between his group and the Darfur rebels.
The rebel group active in Darfur region is the Sudan Liberation Army/ Movement (SLM).
It has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks since it first surfaced in February.
The government has refused to recognise the rebel groups’ political demands in the troubled region of north, south and west Darfur.
The government has repeatedly referred military operations there to “armed criminal gangs and outlaws”.
It accuses tribes in neighbouring Chad of aiding the rebels.
Around two million people have been killed in Sudan since the war began in 1983.