“Today the number is reduced, compared to those who turned up yesterday,” said Ohisa Charles Allam, one of four chairpersons at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum Polling Centre in the regional capital of Juba.
But those who did vote came early, Mr. Allam noted. “We came at around 5 a.m. and we found that already people were lining up outside.”
Jackline Venisto, who arrived at Rombur Polling Centre in Gudelle West to vote at 3 a.m., said most voters wanted to cast their ballots before they reported to work. “I thought I was going to be the first person, but on my arrival I found about 100 people already waiting at the centre.”
Mr. Allam said centre staff was expecting numbers of voters to increase after 3 p.m., when people got off work.
At least one voter found work at the polling station. When Matt Pilot came to cast his ballot, no one was offering water or soft drinks at the station, so he decided to bring these items and sell them.
“I made 200 Sudanese pounds ($60) within two hours this morning,” Mr. Pilot said. “I believe by the end of the day I will get around 1,000 ($300).” He added, however, that his intention was not to make money but to help voters obtain beverages.
To monitor polling security, Government of Southern Sudan Minister for Internal Affairs Gier Chuang Aluong was touring all polling centres in Juba County.
“From the assessment I have made this morning, it seems like the process is going very well,” he said at the University of Juba polling centre. “I am satisfied the security is stable and people are voting normally.”
In the Upper Nile State capital of Malakal, voter turnout was also moderate. Polling officials from eight centres (Soura Malakia School, Hai Matar polling, Labour club,Luakkat, Religious affairs, Shaab School, Hai Tarawa and Neighbourhood centres) said that 6,805 out of 21,205 registered voters in their centres had cast ballots.
The Upper Nile government has declared Monday to Thursday a public holiday so that people can cast their ballots.
In Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal State, visits to three polling centres, (El Ghazala, Sunday School and Mohtemedia Quarters centres) also revealed shorter queues. But polling officials remained optimistic that more people would make their way to vote during the course of the day.
Similarly, the number of voters was down at most centres in Aweil town, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal State, as many people had already cast their ballots the previous day. But hundreds of residents of Nyamlell, capital of Aweil West County, queued to vote across town.
Lual Deng Marol said the day was special for him, as he was waiting to cast his ballot at the Nyamlell’s Akuangap voting centre.
“Today is a day that I have been eagerly looking for for a long time,” said the 57-year-old voter. “I was displaced three times during the war … I hope the era of displacement is over after this process.”
In the village of Marial Bai, about 10 kilometres west of Nyamelel, cheerful residents burst out dancing and singing on the streets.
Even though he had difficulties moving, 96-year-old Akot Chan Chol Ater said the referendum’s importance had urged him to show up at Marial Bai’s polling centre.
According to the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, aggregation and declaration of results timeline, the close of polling and announcement of results from referendum centres will be on January 15.
“I considered this process one of the most important occasions in life and I decided to come and vote,” determined Mr. Ater said. “I think the future will not be the same as what we have been witnessing during our time, and the next generation will benefit from (the referendum).”