Southern Sudanese leaders will work with the North to seek a political and diplomatic resolution to the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Omar el-Bashir, top officials said.
"The country should remain calm and focus on peace in Darfur and other problems facing it," Pagan Amum, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary-General told reporters in the capital, Juba, on 3 March.
On Juba streets, reaction was mixed. A demonstration starting from Juba University was organised by the northern ruling National Congress Party (NCP), but the government urged residents to avoid protests.
Other local residents termed Bashir their hero. "Africa seems not aware and must arise if we want a way forward," Ahmed Ismail, a trader in Juba market, told IRIN. "We will welcome him and let him feel at home everywhere in Sudan."
Sources said some aid workers had left the country. Streets were empty on the eve of the announcement, but heightened security was visible.
"This matter … will not mean the end of our country, the Sudan or government," Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit said in a statement. "We must move beyond tomorrow [4 March]. This should not be viewed as a crisis but as an opportunity to consolidate peace, justice and stability in our country."
|We must move beyond tommorrow...This should not be viewed as a crisis but as an opportunity to consolidate peace, justice and stability in our country|
Warning that the collapse of peace in Sudan would hurt the country and the region, Kiir said the international community had its hands full with problems in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region.
Calling on Southerners not to harass foreigners, he added: "We must continue facilitating peacekeeping missions of the United Nations, the African Union and all humanitarian agencies. The SPLM will work with its partners in the NCP to politically and diplomatically handle the decision of the Court."
On fears that the indictment could jeopardise peace, he said the partners to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement would continue to address the conflict in Darfur, and fully implement the agreement while pursuing national reconciliation and healing.
"I advise SPLM members and other citizens to refrain from demonstrations that may heighten tensions, intimidate other citizens, residents or frustrate in any manner ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to defuse the crisis," he noted.
Aid workers, peacekeepers watchful as president charged
The conflict in Darfur
The case against Bashir