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Letter to President Obama: Prioritize Citizenship Rights in General Assembly meetings on Sudan

Dear Mr. President,

We were pleased to learn that you will be participating in the high-level meeting on Sudan on September 24, on the sidelines of this year’s United Nations General Assembly session in New York. As a humanitarian organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and solutions to displacement crises, Refugees International continues to be very concerned about the situation in Sudan.

Among the long list of issues that the two parties must resolve prior to the January 2011 referendum on southern indenpendence, citizenship and the protection of minority communities on either side of the border have the most potential to develop into serious humanitarian crises. At the General Assembly and during the high-level meeting, we urge you to call on both parties to publicly affirm that a mutually acceptable agreement on citizenship rights in the event the south opts for independence, is a top priority.

We also urge you to press both parties to ensure that minority communities, for example southerners who live in the north and northerners in the south, are protected from any possible violence or backlash that might erupt as a result of the referendum. Moreover, if minority communities opt to return home to either the north or south, before or after the referendum, they should be assisted by the international community to return in safety and dignity and with sufficient resources to receive and integrate them into communities.

Most importantly, minority communities must also be allowed to make the decision to return on a purely voluntary basis with no political pressure from authorities on either side of the border. We are concerned that the Government of Southern Sudan’s recently announced repatriation plan, called “Come Home to Choose,” should be carefully planned and carried out in conjunction with international actors and should only repatriate those southerners who genuinely want to return.
We would be grateful if you could raise the following points with both parties as well as with our international partners during the General Assembly discussions and at the high-level meeting.

Thank you for your continued commitment to Sudan during this very difficult period.

Sincerely yours,

Michel Gabaudan