8 January 2011 - A day before Southern Sudan's self-determination referendum is set to kick off, residents of Fashoda County in Upper Nile State can barely contain their excitement.
As observed by an UNMIS Malakal military observer (UNMO) team beginning a five-day patrol today, youth in the Fashoda headquarters town of Kodok were parading through the streets today yelling, "Vote South Sudan Vote".
South of Kodok in Bol village, paramount chief Paulo Nyibong said his people were ready to vote on 9 January, the first day of the week-long voting period. "We will start going to polling stations as early as 7 am to vote."
Seven women in Panyato village were dancing and singing under the sun, showing their excitement towards the region's historic day. "People of Panyato village will vote in the nearby towns, including Kodok and Old Fashoda," noted paramount chief Untao Yai.
The UNMIS team, made up of UNMOs, Indian troops and national (military) monitors from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces, were patrolling the area to monitor the security situation prior to and during the referendum.
"We want to make sure that there are no security problems and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been properly complied (with)," said the team's leader, Capt. Michael Marchand.
"We also want to see whether people are ready to vote on the referendum tomorrow," added UNMO Maj. Kevin Smith.
While conducting the patrol, which will be carried out by boat and road, the team will be setting up a temporary base in Kodok hospital.
"Welcome to Kodok town and we are ready to support you," Lt. Col. Arok Arok, Sudan People's Liberation Army Chief Administrative Officer in Kodok, told the team.