UN Panel Welcomes Conclusion of Voter Registration for South Sudan Referendum

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–9 December 2010 – The registration of voters ahead of the next month’s referendum on the self-determination of Southern Sudan has been concluded, the United Nations panel monitoring the process said today, welcoming the peaceful and orderly conduct of the exercise.

Registration has, however, been extended in some out-of-country sites to accommodate the late start of registration in those locations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan said a press release.

“The Panel commends the performance of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB), who have been operating under heavy constraints with tight deadlines, and limitations in communications infrastructure, as well as financial and human resources,” the Panel said.

It lauded the decision to extend voter registration from 1 to 8 December, a move that allowed for further public awareness and gave eligible voters more time to enrol.

The people of Southern Sudan are scheduled to vote on 9 January on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country, while the final status of Abyei will be determined in a separate vote on the same day, as set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended two decades of war between the north and the south.

The Panel, however, voiced grave concern over the referendum process in Abyei, where no progress has been made in the preparations because of disagreements over voter eligibility. The dispute has prevented the establishment of the Abyei Area Referendum Commission.

“The status of Abyei is currently subject to negotiations between the CPA parties, and the Panel urges both parties to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the local residents,” said the Panel, which comprises Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, António Monteiro, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.

The Panel said that, in its view, the Southern Sudan voter registration process was “transparent and free from organized manipulation.”

Members of the Panel, however, drew attention to some observations drawn by its monitoring teams, including concerns that eligible voters in some areas are making decisions on their future in a climate of political uncertainty.

Some eligible voters in northern Sudan feared that information submitted during registration might be used in future to question their rights to citizenship or residency. They also noted that Popular Committees or neighbourhood organizations had pitched tents outside registration centres in the North, taking names and other details from those registering, actions which may have deterred eligible voters from registering.

The next phase of the referendum process is the exhibition of voters’ lists starting tomorrow until 17 December. All registration centres are required to display a preliminary register for voters to verify their details and raise objections or seek corrections if they find errors.

The Panel urged the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan to make “prompt and full payment of their commitments towards the funding of the referenda processes.”

Members of the Panel also appealed to the donor community “to fulfil their commitments,” including ensuring that registration staff and security personnel involved in the process are promptly paid.