20 December – The UN panel monitoring Sudan’s referenda met today with Southern Sudanese officials and civil society organizations in Juba to discuss progress after voter registration and challenges ahead of the vote, slated for 9 January 2011.
Panel Chair Benjamin Mkapa said the aim of the three-member body’s third visit to Sudan was to engage further with the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) about the referenda and support them in conducting a credible vote.
During a discussion at the presidential office in Juba, Mr. Mkapa told Southern Sudan Referendum Taskforce members that the panel was encouraged by a general feeling in the north that the referendum would take place. “Now we are certain that even the north is prepared to see this referendum take place.”
However, Mr. Mkapa reiterated that conducting the referendum did not grant acceptance of its outcome. “Taking place is one thing. Accepting the outcome is another and that is the key issue of credibility which we are here to attest.”
Southern Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar, who is also chairperson of the referendum taskforce, told the panel that his government had held a meeting with the leaders of 24 political parties to discuss “registration aftermaths”. He also said that a meeting involving heads of state referendum taskforces and political parties had been convened to review the registration process.
Taskforce members told the panel that ballot papers would arrive on 22 December and be transported to states, counties and polling stations until 25 December. They also promised better security, noting that 5,590 trained police officers would be dispatched to polling stations.
The taskforce requested UN assistance for several ballot challenges, including scarcity of water during voting, transporting voters to polling centres, lack of finance to maintain political parties at polling centres and humanitarian aid for returnees.
The panel highlighted concern expressed by the north about the south’s alleged training of Darfur rebels, which was in contradiction to the CPA, and unsettled post referendum issues like Abyei as challenges that could affect the credibility of the referendum outcome.
The UN body discussed various technical, logistical and financial issues of the voting process with the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) and. It also met with the civil society organizations Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SUNDE) and Sudan Democratic Election Monitoring and Observation Program (SuDEMOP).