A senior member of South Sudan's ruling party on Saturday said it would campaign for southerners to choose independence in a referendum, abandoning a legal fiction that the movement was neutral.
Anne Itto, from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), spoke to journalists from a podium decorated with posters bearing the referendum's symbol for separation.
"Since unity has not been made attractive, we are promoting what our people choose ... We choose to campaign for what people want ... If you have had your ears open, more than 90 percent of the people are already waving," she said, referring to the open-hand symbol for separation printed on referendum forms.
Asked what she meant by waving, Itto answered "separation".
The referendum on whether the oil-producing south should secede or stay in Sudan was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south conflict -- Africa's longest civil war that killed an estimated 2 million people.
Under the terms of the deal, northern and southern leaders agreed to spend the next five years campaigning to make unity attractive to southerners. In recent years, SPLM officials have publicly stuck to that line, saying they would leave it to southerners to make the choice.
Itto said she was speaking for the party's dominant southern sector. Yasir Arman, from the party's northern sector, declined to comment.
"Opponents spread confusion"
Opponents of a referendum on independence for south Sudan are threatening lawsuits and spreading confusion to try to disrupt the vote, the chief official running the plebiscite said on Saturday.
The accusation came at a time of heightened tension around the poll, due next month.
Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil, the head of the referendum's organising commission, told Reuters he had been flooded with spurious complaints and threats of lawsuits, all apparently from the same group.
Southerners are expected to vote for independence in the referendum, scheduled to start on Jan. 9 and last a week.
"We have received complaints in identical terms from different parties very clearly instigated by one main source, all of them groundless ... The whole idea is to create confusion and give the idea that something serious is going wrong," Khalil, a northerner, said. He declined to say who he thought was behind the campaign of disruption.
State-linked media reported earlier that a group called the Higher Council for Peace and Unity had filed a "constitutional case" against the commission and the south's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), saying they had violated the law governing the vote.
Senior SPLM member Yasir Arman dismissed the new case saying it was "baseless and politically motivated by the NCP".
ReutersLast Mod: 11 Aralık 2010, 15:17