As the “popular consultation” process required by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement enters day seven, many participants say development has been inadequate in their localities and basic services lacking.
“The CPA has not met our expectations,” said James Bilies, speaking at Chali hearing centre (Kurmuk County). “The roads are not rehabilitated or maintained and no hospitals or any kind of health services have been provided.”
Taking place across the state for 21 days at 116 hearing centres, one in each locality, the consultations allow Blue Nile citizens to express opinions at six forums held in different locales each day.
Some speakers, who include members of political parties and civil society, said the CPA had made political progress, but that autonomy or self-determination was the way Blue Nile could better use its resources and boost development.
“I think that no aspects of the CPA have been implemented properly, except political ones, which gave us the chance to participate in elections last year,” said Hassan Adam Eltayeb at the Ora hearing centre (Kumuk County). “We need self-governance, in case popular consultations fail.”
Speaking more positively of the CPA and its peace benefit, several people voicing their opinions at El Regaiba hearing center (30 kilometres south of Ed Damazin) thanked the government for this achievement.
According to an UNMIS officer observing the sessions, the consultation process has been running smoothly and participants are keen to have their say.
“The public hearings are very well organized,” said UNMIS Ed Damazine Civil Affairs Officer Svetlana Pencheva. “People are enthusiastic that they can freely express their views and opinions … This is a very good achievement … for the two parties, NCP (National Congress Party) and SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement), and for the people of Blue Nile.”
The hearings are supervised by members of the Popular Consultation Parliamentary Commission (PCPC) and state legislature, who explain the process to participants at the beginning of each session.
Once consultations are concluded, the PCPC will consider speakers’ opinions and submit a report to the state assembly. If the assembly decides the CPA has failed to satisfy Blue Nile people, it will negotiate with the national government to rectify shortcomings in the constitutional, political, administrative and economical arrangements of the CPA to ensure faithful implementation of the agreement.
Commenting on the hearings, State Minister of Agriculture Zayed Issa Zayed (SPLM) noted that the CPA had failed to meet the aspirations of many Blue Nile people. “The SPLM expects these issues to be raised within the negotiations with the national government.”
According to State Assembly SpeakerMohamed El Hassan (NCP), the assembly would do its best to finalize negotiations with the national government on popular consultations before July.
“The issue of SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) in Blue Nile should be resolved as part of the security arrangements and might be raised within the popular consultation package of issues for negotiations with the national government,” the assembly speaker added.
PCPC Chairman Siraj Attaelmanan said funding for the consultation process had been provided by (the non-governmental organization) AECOM. “However, some 40 per cent of the funding is still lacking to finalize the entire process … including the processing of the data, analysis and writing the report.”
The PCPC chairman expressed concern that international attention had been focused on the recently conducted Southern Sudan self-determination referendum at the expense of popular consultations, which he said were equally important.
Representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations are also attending the public hearings.