9 December 2010 - The UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan today welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct as well as timely organization of voter registration for the Southern Sudan referendum.
The Panel commended in a statement the performance of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB), which had been operating under heavy constraints with tight deadlines and limitations in communications infrastructure as well as financial and human resources.
The statement also commended the decision to extend voter registration from 1 to 8 December. This allowed for further public outreach, and gave more time for eligible voters to register.
An extension was granted beyond 8 December to some out-of-country registration sites to accommodate the late start in these locations.
The Panel believed that the process, which was monitored by its own teams across the country as well as domestic and international observers, was transparent and free from organized manipulation. It noted that these SSRC achievements form the basis for a credible referendum, which could take place on the scheduled date, 9 January 2011.
The statement also drew attention to some observations drawn by its monitoring teams.
Issues of eligibility appeared to have generated little controversy and few registrants were turned away. But eligible voters in some areas were making complex decisions about their personal future in a climate of political uncertainty.
Some eligible voters in North Sudan feared that information submitted during registration might be used in future to question their rights to citizenship or residency. The lack of agreement between the two parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement about future citizenship and property arrangements in case of secession had exacerbated these concerns.
Furthermore, the practices of Popular Committees, legally constituted neighbourhood organizations, did nothing to allay southerners’ fears. The Panel noted with concern that Popular Committees had established tents outside registration centres in the north, taking names and other details from registrants, which may have deterred eligible persons from registering.
Other voters may have been influenced by an unofficial campaign encouraging southerners to register and vote only in Southern Sudan, the statement said.