By Heather Harms, Crimes Against Humanity Program Intern
President Obama will meet this afternoon with leaders from around the world to help focus international attention on Sudan with less than four months to go until two critical referenda on that country’s future.
Today’s meeting, convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, comes at a moment when it is clear that there is no time to waste in preparing for these referenda as well as for the potential for a return to violence between north and south Sudan.
Sudan has been a focus for senior U.S. officials attending the U.N. General Assembly meetings this week. Samantha Power, senior director of multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, said yesterday that President Obama will be “giving a very substantial set of remarks on Sudan” on Friday. When Secretary Clinton met with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha on Tuesday, she encouraged him to begin taking specific, concrete steps towards implementing the referendum. The necessary steps include finalizing the wording of the referendum, creating an operational plan and budget, agreeing on voter registration criteria and procedures, hiring and training registration workers, and determining the boundary between north and south.
Additionally, in meetings throughout the week with other international leaders, Secretary Clinton has urged countries that have close ties to Sudan to encourage full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which is the basis for the January votes. China is of particular importance, given its role as a major economic partner of Khartoum and as a significant source of arms flows to the Sudanese government.
Human Rights First encourages the Obama administration to continue to provide strong leadership on Sudan at this critical time. In a statement released this week, the organization urged President Obama’s attention to five priorities, including maintaining a focus on the ongoing crisis in Darfur and being prepared for the risk of mass atrocities around the referenda in Southern Sudan.
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