UN panel optimistic South Sudan referendum will proceed despite hurdles
Laaska News December 23,2010.
Newyork (UN)22 December 2010 –The head of the United Nations panel tasked with monitoring next month’s landmark referendum on the self-determination of Southern Sudan said today that his team believed that the vote will take place as planned despite remaining challenges, including limited resources and the need to raise awareness among voters.
“Based on our observations so far, we believe that a credible referendum can take place,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the Panel and a former President of Tanzania, at a news conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, at the end of the team’s third visit to the country since October.
The people of Southern Sudan will go to the polls from 9 to 15 January to vote on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country. The referendum will be the culmination of the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended two decades of war between the north and the south.
A vote on whether Abyei, an oil-rich area on the border between the north and the south, will join either side has also been scheduled to coincide with the main referendum, but preparations there remain mired in controversy.
Voter registration has been completed and the process of exhibiting the registers for public scrutiny and receiving objections is concluding, Mr. Mkapa said. The courts will then hear any remaining challenges before the final list of eligible voters is published.
“These steps are extremely important to the success of the referendum and we will be watching closely to see how they are carried out. Now is not the time to falter. We call on all sides to play their part to ensure that the vote can take place on 9 January as scheduled,” said Mr. Mkapa.
He noted, however, that the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) have faced financial and logistical hurdles.
Other challenges include ensuring that all eligible voters understand their obligation to exercise their right to vote. “Many voters live in remote areas, far from referendum centres, and we call for every effort to be made to make it easier for people to reach the centres,” he said.
Mr. Mkapa urged the authorities to immediately release all pending funds so that the logistical costs and the salaries of referendum staff and security personnel are paid in time.
On transparency, he said the results should be released as responsibly as possible to ensure confidence in the process. “We have called on the SSRC to clearly communicate to the public how the results of the vote will be tabulated, publicized and finalized.”
On Abyei, Mr. Mkapa said that the panel remained gravely concerned. “As the negotiations continue, it is vital that everyone involved shows patience and does their utmost to reach a peaceful and permanent settlement acceptable to all,” he said.
“The eyes of the world will be watching this referendum, and we hope that all the hard work that has gone into preparing for it will culminate in a vote that is smooth, transparent and a credit to all,” he added. The panel will go back to Sudan in about two weeks to be in the country when polling starts.
The panel is playing a good offices role on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen confidence in the Sudanese-led referenda process, and to encourage the parties and relevant authorities to resolve any significant problems or disputes as they emerge.
The panel’s other members are Antَnio Monteiro, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.