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Conference gives glimpse of potential South Sudan state

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Pete Muller/AP

(Read caption) On Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 Gabriel Tanginye, a notorious southern Sudanese former militia leader, shakes hands with leading members of the Nuer tribal community in Unity state, Bentiu, Sourthern Sudan. Tanginye, a Nuer himself, commanded a sizable, northern-supported milita throughout much of the civil war between north and south Sudan. His visit to southern Sudan reflects a growing interest among southern Sudanese factions to establish unity within the south ahead of a self-determination vote scheduled for Jan. 9.

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After an extended five-day conference between South Sudanese political parties, civil society, and religious groups in Juba, a faint vision of the type of state southern secession may bring has emerged.

The conference, which was aimed at reconciling the many divisions within the southern population before a crucial referendum vote in January, produced a communiqué that laid out how a new South Sudanese government would be formed if the region votes for independence in January.

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According to various news sources, the steps would be as follows: A constitutional conference would be convened within a month after the vote that would establish an interim government, under current South Sudan President Salva Kiir. This transitional government would then conduct a new population census and elections (timeline to be announced) for a “constituent assembly” – presumably the new legislature. This assembly would then vote on a new constitution for the new state.

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A piece penned by Bec Hamilton for Slate magazine describes vividly the shift from rancorous bickering to triumphant celebration that played out between attendees at the conference. (For a visual of the happy ending, here’s a photo from Sudan Tribune.) Hamilton also rightly questioned the sustainability of southern unity if secession passes, when southern leaders will actually have to confront the difficult job of setting up a new government – a concern, it seems, that President Kiir himself shares. Hamilton writes:

Kiir himself exuded a quiet confidence when I met with him this week. He was clearly delighted by the events of Sunday night. But when I asked whether he was sure he could maintain this newfound unity after the referendum, he was circumspect. "I believe we will sustain the reconciliation of the South if the decisions of the conference are implemented," he told me.

Amanda Hsiao blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.