[JURIST] The Sudan National Elections Commission (NEC) [official website, in Arabic] announced on Sunday that an administrative referendum is set for July 1 for residents to determine whether Darfur [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] should continue to be separated into three states or return to one region. State media indicated that a Republican Decree ordered the NEC to schedule the referendum [SUNA report] no later than the July 1 deadline. Sudanese rebel groups [BBC backgrounder] objected to scheduling the referendum [Reuters report] prior to reaching an agreement in the peace talks in Qatar [Al Jazeera backgrounder], which have been ongoing between rebel groups in the region since 2009. The peace talks have produced little progress, and rebels fear that the referendum would eliminate any possibility of reaching a deal. The government stated that it was committed to holding the referendum [AFP report] in July as a result of the Darfur Peace Agreement [text, PDF] signed in 2006 in Abuja, Nigeria.
Another recent referendum has created some instability in Sudan. In January, more than 98 percent of southern Sudanese voters voted in favor of secession [JURIST report] from northern Sudan. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] issued a formal decree [JURIST report] in February accepting the result of the referendum as the will of the southern people. The secession will officially take place on July 9 in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. There have been 101 deaths in the region since Tuesday [Daily Mail report] as a result of fighting between the south Sudanese army and rebel militias. The southern Sudanese government has accused the north of facilitating the fighting in order to create instability in the region to maintain the region’s reliance on the north’s oil infrastructure. In September, a human rights expert told the UN that Sudan was not prepared [JURIST report] for the referendum and that a lack of infrastructure in southern Sudan could lead to human rights violations, including suppression of free speech and inadequate protection of society due to a lack of well-trained police officers, prosecutors and judges.