2 January 2011 – In a continuing effort to reach areas inaccessible by road, UNMIS airlifted voting materials to the Central Equatoria State payam of Tali today, just a week before balloting begins in Southern Sudan’s long-awaited self-determination referendum.
The materials included ballot papers, kits and boxes along with voting screens, stationery and banners. They will be distributed to eight referendum centres in Tali and another four in the neighbouring payam of Tindilo.
Terekeka County referendum sub-committee chairperson Charity Michel accepted the voting materials, which will be delivered to the dozen referendum centres over the next three days.
The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has indicated that all polling materials should arrive in referendum centres no later than 6 January.
“We are now ready for the final process of the referendum,” said Ms. Michel, adding that Tali and Tandilo are the last communities in Terekeka County to receive the voting materials.
The residents of Tali mostly belong to the Mundari tribe and depend on farming and cattle rearing for their livelihoods.
They welcomed the delivery of the referendum polling materials and expressed their readiness to cast ballots later this month.
“We are very happy now and there is no problem for us to vote next week,” said Lino Diyo Ako, a 50-year-old resident who was among a large gathering of people who greeted the UNMIS Mi-8 helicopter laden with the voting materials.
Of the estimated 40,000 people in Tali who were eligible to vote, only about 8,100 registered at the payam’s eight referendum centres. Tali Payam Director Emmanuel Maluk Abang blamed the low number of voters in part on the migratory movements of local cattle herders during the registration exercise.
Mr. Abang also expressed his concern about the ability of some voters living in particularly remote locations to reach referendum centres during the week-long balloting.
“Some people should travel up to 23 miles to reach polling centres,” he said, adding that he hoped the GoSS and the Central Equatoria State government would provide assistance with transport to those voters.